• Thu
  • Aug 21, 2014
  • Updated: 8:15am
NewsHong Kong

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


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Paths to citizenship in Hong Kong is clearly laid out, you just need an employment visa sponsored by a local company. Immigrants are important to building a society and value is placed on skillsets that can enrich society as a whole.
The services provided by domestic helpers, while valuable, do not really enrich the society as a whole, i.e. they are low-skilled jobs that could be fulfilled by anyone. Even training is not a requirement, which a blue or white collar job is fundamental even for a bus driver.
If FDHs could achieve citizenship just by staying here for 7 years, we would have an influx of helpers who a generally uneducated and will require social aid. How much? If optimistically only 20% of these FDHs need social aid, it's still over 20,000 along with their immediate families. Hong Kong as a small city can barely handle mainland tourists and at the very least, they leave at the end of their trips. PR is a whole different logistics matter.
This is a matter of employment contract. I could hire a blue or white collar foreign worker and stipulate that my company does not endorse their PR, thus if they could not find another sponsor, they would have to leave. Which would be perfectly legal. FDHs are no different.
I am not and will not comment on the fairness of the ruling. However, I cannot see how HK could possibly cope with the influx of so many low income and low skilled migrants. How long would the public housing queue be? On the flip side, how many of them would earn enough money to contribute and pay taxes? And for those that say "not all of them will or be able to afford to settle in HK", that's perhaps true. But put yourself in their shoes.... You are living in Manila or Jakarta, you or a family member is suffering from a serious illness requiring long-term/expensive treatment. Wouldn't you want to be treated in our relatively good public hospitals? I'm sure they would, and I wouldn't blame them as I'd do the same if given the choice. That's why they can't be given this choice, it's just unsustainable for HK.
Just wondering how many domestic helpers have got PR in Singapore?
SAR PR cant get and after years and years people cant get SAR passport and naturalization. is it also legal ?
as "THENEXT' said singapore not give PR to domestic helpers but singapore/canada/europe will not ask people to wait years and years for passport once approved for PR.
this dicrimination/racist immigration/ only and only in SAR.
any one will speak for this cruel immigration behavior? after all legal rights fulfill still years and years to get application results why ?
For starters Canada/europe require you to wait for years just to obtain residency. In HK the process is brisk.
Unlike many countries it's also very simple to obtain PR in Hong Kong.
Finally naturalization IS an option in HK. I am in the process of applying for it now.
HK immigration dept is not racist. Compared to many other immigration departments all around the world, I find them quite reasonable actually.
uk/usa/europe/newzealand/ these all i am very clear their system
3 years for PR and + 2 years more and you will have your passport in hand .
Sar after continous 7 years you can make application for elible or not then may b it takes you more than a year to recieve your right of abode id card then passports you never know how many years more no system no check and balance no accountability in sar.
so SAR is simple or others?
er none!!!
Of course it is none. Only western countries with lots of space for housing like Canada offer permanent residency. Canada also looks down Hong Kong for now. But HK needed to say no as there is no space. Also it was told to them at the beginning it was a never!
I think the ruling is fair ...all the domestic helpers in HK knew well on the terms of their contract and their status in HK well before they even started their work here so sadly they have to accept this ruling ....if they want to get a PR then qualify for an employment visa first which is not that of a helper where visa requirements are not the same as that of general employment and work for 7 years then get ur PR....
Can SCMP put some money or resource to fix up its apps? Once you have 10+ comments, we can't do a reply on comments! This is unacceptable!




SCMP.com Account