POLITICS
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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Regina Ip apologises for comments about Filipino maids in Hong Kong

But Exco member denies she was racist while protest march will go ahead

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 April, 2015, 12:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 4:02am

Executive Councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee yesterday apologised to those who were offended by her controversial remarks on Filipino domestic helpers, but she insisted the comments were not sexist or racist.

The development came one day after migrant workers staged a protest against her and two days ahead of another one. They had demanded an apology from Ip after she cited complaints about Filipino domestic helpers bedding their expatriate bosses.

"I wish to tender my sincere apologies to all those who have felt offended by my article," the New People's Party leader and lawmaker wrote in a statement.

"I look forward to an opportunity to explain to the groups … in person to tender my apologies so that any misunderstanding could be removed."

Last week, in an article in the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao that was republished on her blog and Facebook page, Ip wrote that she had received complaints while she was secretary for security from "foreign women" in Discovery Bay that the government was "allowing Filipino domestic helpers to seduce their husbands". The article has since been removed from her blog and Facebook page.

The Philippine consulate on Monday expressed its concern over the "unfortunate choice of words" by Ip, who is seen as a contender in the 2017 chief executive race. The Philippines' oldest English-language newspaper, The Manila Times, ran an editorial on Sunday calling for her not to become thenext leader of Hong Kong.

Ip, who has maintained since the uproar began that she meant no offence, had asked why she should apologise as she had indeed received such complaints.

She clarified yesterday that the article was meant only to "raise a question as to whether there is widespread exploitation of Filipino maids in Hong Kong and to express my concern", adding people who were insulted by the comments were misinterpreting her piece.

"Unfortunately, the way my article was misinterpreted in some quarters has led many to believe that I was sexist or racist and was pointing a finger at the Filipino maids," she said. "I strenuously deny such allegations."

She also stressed she had always been friendly to Filipinos in Hong Kong and respected their contribution to the community.

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body, welcomed Ip's public apology as it showed she had acknowledged that her remarks offended a lot of people.

He said, however, that Ip's support for Filipinos had yet to be seen as she had always been on the opposite side of the migrant workers in Hong Kong, be it on right of abode or other rights issues.

"It was [Ip] who said Beijing should intervene if we win the court case [on right of abode for a Filipino]," said Villanueva. "We call for a wage increase, will she support that?"

The migrant workers' activist also said Sunday's march from Chater Garden in Central to the Legislative Council would still proceed.

"It is important to tell everyone that an inclusive society and non-discriminatory atmosphere in Hong Kong is good for everyone," he said. "It's a matter beyond Regina Ip."