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  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 2:26am
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COURTS

Foreign helpers' plea for permanent residency fails

Judgment by top court ends two-year saga over right of abode and denies request by the government for Beijing 'interpretation'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 10:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 11:27am

The top court ruled yesterday that foreign domestic helpers did not have the right to apply for permanent residency, affirming the government's right to impose immigration controls.

The landmark judgment ended the two-year right-of-abode saga that began when Evangeline Vallejos and Daniel Domingo, two Philippine domestic helpers who had worked in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, sought a judicial review of immigration law.

Mark Daly, solicitor for the two, said Vallejos was "calmly resigned" and that Domingo had called the ruling "unfair".

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants' Co-ordinating Body, said: "The ruling gives a judicial feel to the unfair treatment and social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong."

But also in its unanimous decision, the Court of Final Appeal rejected the government's controversial request that it seek an interpretation from Beijing, ruling it "unnecessary".

The request was seen by some as a backhanded attempt by the government to get Beijing to halt the flow of another group of unwanted migrants - children born locally of mainland parents - while putting the city's prized judicial independence at risk.

This means the judgment has thwarted the administration's attempt to solve right-of-abode issues involving domestic helpers and children born locally to mainlanders in one single case.

The government said it would "endeavour" to resolve the remaining right-of-abode issues within the local legal system, but fell short of saying that it would not directly seek an interpretation from Beijing.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung told a briefing last night: "We are trying our very best to resolve all legal issues concerning [children born in Hong Kong to mainlanders] by legal avenues which are available within the local legal system.

"We will exhaust our means before we do anything [else]."

Academics and pro-democracy lawmakers said the current ban on mainland women whose husbands were not Hong Kong permanent residents from booking beds in public hospitals had been effective.

They said there was no need for the government to seek an interpretation from Beijing, which they said would damage Hong Kong's autonomy.

The Bar Association and Law Society said directly seeking an interpretation from Beijing would be likely to undermine the rule of law of Hong Kong. Law professor Albert Chen Hung-yee, a Basic Law Committee member, said there was only a slim chance the government would directly seek an interpretation from Beijing given the opposition from the public and the legal and political communities.

"I cannot see that the government has a good basis for it to seek an interpretation," he said, adding the zero-birth-quota measure had been successful. Law professor Michael Davis said: "The government should pursue local options. What they have done so far has had some success. There is really no reason to project beyond that."

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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This article is now closed to comments

santini
The same Western countries that "absorbed" Chinese refugees in the 1960s and 1970s fleeing famine and re-education. Good enough to clean the floors but not good enough to have equal status.
HK-Lover
Again and again there is the argument that FDH don't pay tax which is nonsense. Ok, let's decide FDH shall be subject to salaries tax, how much tax would they have to pay? Zero ! Because the allowance being exempted of salaries tax is $ 120,000 per year. In fact all FDH would be so happy if they had to pay tax in HK because for that their annual salary needs to be more than $ 120,000 in order to be above the allowance and that is 3 times more than what they get today.
Who is the first to throw that stone ? Nobody ? Than stop that silly argument they have no rights because they don't pay tax.
blue
"This is also valid for 90% of the Chinese who left the mainland to live and work in Hong Kong."

I know. What's your point? HK is a developed economy now and it doesn't have room to support more economic refugees unfortunately.

FDH do not have to pass the more stringent vetting process that ordinary residents have to pass. Furthermore, if a FDH has a college degree, then why are they applying to be a FDH? Why do they not apply to obtain a normal work visa and become an ordinary resident? See how what you're saying makes no sense?
rease.92
The Filipinos could dump the church, cut the birthrate in the philippines, dump their corrupt politicians, and grow their agricultural and business sector. With construction workers, doctors and nurses in the arab and western world coming largely from the Philippines, they could start building care homes in the Philippines and taking care of seniors that are no longer wanted in their own countries, including their wealth.
My wish is that the Philippines can create enough jobs and wealth at home so that all Philippine parents working now overseas can return home .
2crazy4words
Whatever viewpoint you adopt, this judgement was a convenient political solution. The government got what it wanted and the Judiciary avoided the embarrassment of Beijing intervention.
The judiciary claim it was balanced and reasoned on the circumstances alone, but only time will tell. Will they succumb the next time the Government wants their way and threatens the interpretation Joker card?
Will.I.Am
No worries, they can always try Singapore instead! No? How about Malaysia? Or Taiwan? Or maybe Japan or Korea?
Failing they can always go back to Philipines, no loss at all.
jjenno
Foreign Domestic Helpers are just that, FOREIGN domestic helpers. The difference between expat professionals and FDH is that professionals contribute to the local economy, they pay tax, club memberships, restaurants, furniture stores, property and hire FDHs.
FDHs on the other hand contribute negligible amounts to the local economy. They do not pay tax, or most consumer goods, on the contrary, they send most of their income back to their home country. Seems they want it all one way.
rease.92
hahahaha
Without FDH, those expats and rich Chinese could not spend money in restaurants and clubs but would need to stay home. Do the laundry, cook, iron their shirts for next day and change the diapers for their children. And stay at their bedside when they get sick.
It is only the FDH that enables the rich lifestyle.
cnt123
Eman Villanueva talked about unfair treatment, what rubbish are you talking about. HK give FDW legal protection, much better than almost any other SE Asian country, and the right to challenge the HK gov. Lets not forget what this is really about, greed. Who would want to leave their homes and familiy if it wasn't for money. In HK the FDW can get at least 5x what they can earn in Philipines. Their contract states they must return home. Now that they tasted the good life, they want more. Well, the law tells you otherwise, and you retort to rubbish in justifing your action.
Shadow

My Dear IRDHK firstly congratulations for your great big WIN.one more message for your future generations to come as you said i copy here for your easy ref you may miss to read on other page>"In a rare elaboration, Qiao admitted it would be difficult to write into law criteria for the "love country, love Hong Kong" notion, but those "who confront the central government" would fail to qualify, he said. This would be decided in three steps. "Firstly, the nomination committee will decide. Then the voters in Hong Kong will decide. Lastly, the central government will decide whether to appoint [the candidate] or not. Every person has a scale in their hearts," Qiao said"
my best wishes and prayers for Greater china

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