There was a cri de coeur outside the Court of Appeal when it overturned a landmark ruling that could have given permanent residency to tens of thousands of foreign domestic helpers. A spokeswoman for an alliance that supported the case of Filipino maid Evangeline Banao Vallejos said foreign maids had worked and contributed to the city like any other expatriates and deserved to be treated as such. She is wrong. I would argue that the maids, as a group, have over many decades contributed far more to the well-being and prosperity of Hong Kong than any other group of expats. We have all benefited, especially local women. How many female executives - or ordinary women workers - would have been confined to the home if domestic help had not been available? Those women have been liberated from domesticity and can now build meaningful - even powerful - careers on par with men, largely thanks to the maids' sacrifices. But the judges did not think the maids were like 'ordinary' expats. They said they were more like refugees and prisoners. As such, the maids could not have been 'ordinarily resident' in Hong Kong, like expats, and should be treated like undesirables instead. The characterisation is logically absurd and morally offensive. But as the whole case pivoted on the meaning of 'ordinarily resident' in immigration law, the initial judgment was overturned. The judges also ruled that the government and legislature have the right, under the Basic Law, to choose which foreigners to 'admit, exclude and expel' under 'prevailing circumstances' that could change as economic, social and political conditions change. In that case, should the government restrict the movement of expats who deal in the derivatives blamed for causing financial crises? How about those who work for foreign tobacco and alcohol companies? Or everyone from Britain, because we suffered under colonialism? The court and the government were especially mean to make Vallejos pay for costs in a case that was clearly of the highest public interest. Next stop - the Court of Final Appeal!