Lawmakers propose ban on maids to force apology over Manila bus tragedy
Lawmaker Albert Chan's group wants to change immigration law to ban Filipino workers until Aquino apologises for Manila hostage tragedy
Jeffie Lam, Phila Siu and Joshua But
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A radical pan-democratic group is seeking law revisions to ban Filipino domestic helpers from working in the city until Manila apologises for the bungled rescue in a Manila hostage-taking crisis three years ago that killed eight Hongkongers.
Under the People Power plan, all Filipinos would eventually be barred from entering Hong Kong.
The idea was met with reservations by the security minister, legislators and the family of one of the dead hostages, expressing concerns about the effect on Hongkongers in general.
The move came two days after Philippine President Benigno Aquino insisted in an official talk with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in Bali on Monday that he would make no apology for the messed-up rescue action.
"Aquino has been humiliating Hongkongers," lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip, of People Power, said. "The government has the responsibility to take a tougher stance to penalise the country for its response to the tragedy."
The political group plans to table a private member's bill to amend the Immigration Ordinance. The bill must be signed off by the chief executive before the Legislative Council votes on it.
People Power seeks changes to the law in three steps: first, to ban new Filipino domestic helpers; secondly, to stop renewing the entry permits of existing maids; and lastly, to bar all Filipinos from entering Hong Kong until the Philippines apologises.
The city has about 160,000 Filipino domestic workers.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said any follow-up action on the hostage tragedy had to be reasonable. "We have to be careful about any idea that will affect the public," he said.
New People's Party lawmaker and executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the ban would only harm the middle class. "Hongkongers should stop pressing for an apology from the Philippines as Aquino will only continue playing tricks," Ip said.
She proposed that the government set up a fund to help survivors and families of the dead.
Wong Kwok-kin, a legislator from the Beijing-friendly Federation of Trade Unions, said it would not oppose the idea of restricting Filipino helpers.
"But any policy change concerning Filipino maids could affect more than 200,000 local families and needs careful consideration," Wong said.
Tse Chi-kin, elder brother of slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, said he did not want their cause to undermine the interests of Hongkongers.
Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body, said Chan was "barking up the wrong tree".
"Chan is just exploiting the political situation to gain popularity. What does the visa issue have to do with the Manila hostage incident?" Villanueva asked. "This is racist and he should be ashamed."
A video released by the Philippine presidential office shows Leung's meeting with Aquino.
Ip said Leung was the underdog in the talks, as he lacked experience in diplomacy. "From the seating arrangement and the lack of a joint statement you can see the Philippines disrespects Hong Kong," she said.
Leung and two other Hong Kong officials sat on one side while Aquino sat alone at the centre of the room. That was "inappropriate" and contradicted diplomatic norms for leaders to sit side by side even when both were not state leaders, said Simon Shen Xuhui, director of global studies at Chinese University.
The International Federation of Journalists condemned the Apec summit organisers for barring Hong Kong journalists who asked Aquino about an apology.
Video: Apec summit staff kicked out Hong Kong reporters for "screaming" at President of Philippines