Myanmese maids drawn into row over Manila hostage siege

Lawmaker to lobby Myanmese officials to let workers come to the city in bid to push the Philippines to apologise for 2010 tragedy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 1:58pm

A Liberal Party lawmaker is lobbying Myanmese officials to allow maids from the former British colony to work in Hong Kong in a bid to put pressure on the Philippine government over the Manila hostage killings.

Textiles and garment sector lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan, who is involved in the building of a "garment industrial park" in Myanmar, wants Myanmese workers to provide an alternative to Filipino maids. He will discuss the idea with the country's consul general on Tuesday.

Chung's move came a day after radical pan-democratic group People Power said it would seek a law revision to ban Filipino domestic helpers from working in the city until Manila apologises for the bungled rescue which ended the siege three years ago, in which eight Hongkongers died.

"At the moment it's hard to support a ban on Filipino maids as we don't have much alternative in the market," said Chung. "But the situation will change if we have [other options].

"We can never replace all Filipino maids with Myanmese ones, but at least we can send a strong message to the Philippines - stop being so arrogant."

Chung added that the average monthly salary of Myanmese skilled workers was just US$100 a month, meaning their potential earnings in Hong Kong would be five or even 10 times that.

Joseph Law, chairman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers Association, said he thought Myanmese would fit into Hong Kong families easier than the Bangladeshi maids who have been hired in the city since May this year.

Filipino and Indonesian maids account for about 95 per cent of the foreign domestic helpers in the city, said Law.

"The situation is very unhealthy and dangerous - especially when Indonesia has said it will stop exporting maids in 2017," he said.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, vice-chairwoman of the General Chamber of Manpower Agencies, said maid agencies had been in contact with the Myanmar consulate for several years about bringing in Myanmese to work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

"The Hong Kong government actually allows it. But Myanmar's government has refused," said Liu, whose chamber represents about 90 agencies in the city.

Myanmar's government only allows its people to work overseas as "skilled workers" but not as "domestic helpers", Liu said.