Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Filipinos concerned Hong Kong visa sanctions against officials might affect them

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 3:59am

The city's Filipino community is worried that sanctions over the bungled bus hostage drama may affect more than just officials visiting Hong Kong.

The government last week announced that official and diplomatic Philippine passport holders - up to 800 of them visit the city each year - would no longer be allowed to enjoy a 14-day visa-free arrangement.

Zoe, a Filipino maid working in the city, said: "It's all right for officials and it is also a wake-up call that they have to take care of people coming to the Philippines as we are taken care of by the people in Hong Kong." But she added the sanctions should not affect ordinary citizens.

Eman Villanueva, vice-chairman of the Filipino Migrant Workers' Union in Hong Kong, said many of his compatriots feared stronger sanctions could be on the way.

"We as a people do not want this to escalate and we are worried because some politicians are using this to advance their own political agenda," he said.

But People Power lawmaker Chan Chi-chuen has said the visa move was not enough and again urged the government to stop issuing work visas to Filipino domestic helpers from April.

His party wants an end to all visa-free treatment for Philippine passport holders by mid-2015 if Manila refuses to apologise for the 2010 tragedy, in which eight Hong Kong people died.

Villanueva said his union did not support any sanctions, saying both sides should use diplomatic means to work out a solution.

He said the incident would have been settled if President Benigno Aquino had followed the recommendations of an independent panel and backed the filing of criminal charges against eight police and government officials for their roles in the crisis.

Aquino instead ordered the filing of administrative charges against six of these officials.

"Survivors are clinging on the apology because the president did not follow the recommendations," Villanueva said, adding that Manila had "nothing to lose" by offering an apology if it could end the saga.