Bid to attract maids from Central goes ahead

A SCHEME to ''help decongest Statue Square'' has been given the go-ahead on a trial basis with the backing of Central landlord Hongkong Land - the company which asked the Government to reopen Chater Road on Sundays to clear it of the domestic helpers who gathered there.

The proposal, by the publisher of the magazine Tinig Filipino to turn Moreton Terrace in Causeway Bay into a market place with a ''fiesta atmosphere'' has received the green light from the Urban Services Department.

For the first three Sundays in May, two bitumen football pitches and a volleyball court will be transformed into rows of stalls, seating areas and a stage for entertainment under a plan submitted by Mrs Vonnie Boston three weeks ago.

Special coaches will ferry off-duty domestic helpers from Statue Square to the area opposite Victoria Park on the three Sundays. The bus ride and the market day will be free.

Mrs Boston hopes it will be the beginning of a continuing event which will ''drag a few more away from the Central area''.

''I hope we can organise a varied programme of things, rather than sitting around the square with nothing to do in a fairly unfriendly area,'' Mrs Boston, who already helps sponsor sports events and film screenings, said.


But it will need the co-operation of the business community, she stressed, calling on the ''major players in the Central district'' to come forward with the cash.

Mrs Boston has already approached about a dozen big businesses who have expressed initial support. Among the leaders is Hongkong Land, which has given a ''good, strong expression of support''.

Mrs Boston would not, however, reveal monetary pledges from Hongkong Land or other companies, which she said had requested confidentiality.

But a spokeswoman for the company yesterday denied Hongkong Land had pledged financial support, saying it was still considering the proposal.


She said the company had several similar proposals in hand and was considering them all.

''Statue Square had no facilities for the domestic helpers and we feel that alternative facilities should be considered and provided for them,'' the Hongkong Land spokeswoman said.


''This social problem should be addressed.'' Mr Stanley Lee Lap-chee, acting deputy director of the Urban Services Department (Leisure Services), said the Moreton Terrace scheme was on a trial basis only with no long-term commitment from either side.

''It is not advisable from our point of view to let them use the place on a long-term basis, because it would affect other users,'' he said.

''But I think we will assess the possible effect these activities have on normal users and the facilities. We also need to see if there are any problems related to it.


''We will also see if the problem of hawking or littering will be reduced in Central as a result.'' Mr Lee said the scheme's trial run would not mean the maids being stopped from using the public facilities in Central.

''After the three Sundays, we will consider if these facilities could be hired to them in future,'' Mr Lee said.

''We feel they have no place to go and if an organisation is willing to organise some activities for them, it is a good thing and better than nothing.'' The estimated area of the Moreton Terrace site is one hectare. It is thought that up to 3,000 people could be accommodated.


The proposal was greeted with interest by several Filipino groups. A representative of United Migrant Workers, Miss Rosalina Adonis, described it as a good and attractive idea.

But she also warned that it would take some time for the estimated 30,000 Filipino domestic workers who gather in and around Statue Square each Sunday to be attracted to alternative sites.

Wan Chai District Board member Mr Steven Pak Sum said he was concerned that normal users would be affected if the maids were allowed to use the venue for long.

''It would be fine if they are planning a one-off event,'' he said.

''But if it is sealed off on Sundays for their long-term use, I would have reservations.'' He said such a plan would affect the use of facilities by residents who frequented the area for exercise and ball games.

''There should be no special place designated for these helpers, or it will be an act of segregation,'' he said.

''They can go to the Victoria Park for leisure activities just like the rest of us.''