CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Group of 39 condemns migrant worker bashing over right of abode issue

  HONG KONG (SE): “Their names and reputations are (being) blackened by particular politicians who intend to gain political advantage in the year of the elections,” reads a statement released on August 15 by a group of 39 civic organisations in Hong Kong.

It refers to appeals by five Filipino migrant or former migrant workers against a decision of the Immigration Department to deny them the right of abode.

“We are deeply angry towards such acts that take advantage of the situation,” the statement continues. 

The group of 39 calls the Immigration Department policy that excludes migrant workers from availing of the privilege extended to other non-Chinese nationals who hold legal documents and have worked for seven years in the territory, discriminatory.

It states, “They therefore suffer consistent discrimination and deprivation of rights solely because of the nature of their job.”

It notes that all people who come to Hong Kong under the category of migrant worker are contracted by private individuals as domestic workers and have, over the decades, made a significant contribution to the economy of the special administrative region.

Numbering approximately 290,000, with about equal representation from The Philippines and Indonesia accounting for over 90 per cent of them, the group of 39 notes, “Local women are released into the labour market because these domestic workers have taken up the responsibilities of taking care of Hong Kong families.”

It adds, “While both the man and woman can become breadwinners, social income and consumption have increased and Hong Kong benefits. The contribution of the foreign domestic workers should therefore be acknowledged.”

The group is accusing some political parties and politicians of deliberately excluding, discrediting and blackening the names of members of the migrant worker community, simply for seeking to claim their rights. It calls this action malicious, as it is done in order to seek political advantage for themselves at the cost of others.

“Hong Kong should not tolerate such chilling behaviour,” the statement reads. It continues by saying that anyone, who chooses to fight for their rights through the formal and proper legal means, such as the High Court, should be treated equally both before the law and in the esteem of society.

The statement points out that the thousands of people who welcome domestic workers into their homes and treat them with respect and as dignified employees are a shining light among those who seek to demonise them.

It specifically calls on the following members of the Legislative Council, Paul Tse Wai-chun, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Starry Lee Wai King and Miriam Lau Kin-yee; as well as the Liberal Party, New People’s Party, The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, to stop factually distorting the issue and to refrain from divisive speech.

It also calls on them to apologise for the harm they have done to the group of people to whom the residents of Hong Kong entrust the care of their children and aged relatives.

It then accuses the government of the special administrative region of remaining unconcerned in the face of the attempt of political parties and self-interest organisations to publicly blacken the reputation of the migrant worker community for their own benefit, and for attempting to preempt or influence a decision of the court.

The group notes that the current outburst against migrant workers is a denial of the history that has made Hong Kong a successful economic enclave.

“As an international city, Hong Kong’s success has never relied solely on local contributions,” the group of 39 says. “Our civilised, prosperous society has been built through the coordination of people from different nationalities and races.”

However, the group notes with regret that migrant workers have been the consistent butt of discriminatory behaviour and legislation over a long period of time. 

It cites the two-weeks-and-you-are-out rule, which allows a person only 14 days to find a new job after a work contract has expired or been terminated, as being discriminatory.

It also adds that the exclusion from the Statutory Minimum Wage Ordinance leaves them without proper legal protection, as their salaries are set behind closed doors by a group of 20 members of the Executive Council, which never asks for advice from labour unions or consults the public, or the workers themselves regarding their real needs or the economic state of their situation.

However, it notes that the most glaring discrimination is perpetrated by the government itself, as it consistently refuses to effectively monitor the employment agencies that illegally charge migrant workers up to 10 times their monthly salaries for a job placement.

The statement points out that although these fees are illegal, the workers have pay it to avoid repatriation, as that would be more costly in the long run.

The group of 39 stresses that deliberate negligence on behalf of the government is what makes it possible for this racket to continue.

The group of 39 states categorically, “We have to respect the basic rights of foreign domestic workers to fight for their right of abode by legal means. Some political parties and Legislative Council members allege that millions of foreign domestic workers and their families will become Hong Kong permanent residents should the judicial review favour them and create a terrible financial burden on Hong Kong society.”

The statement from the group adds, “We consider that such an allegation echoes discriminatory government policies and provokes ethnic disintegration, which will only result in a terrified and divided society.”

It calls the allegation ridiculous and unfounded, as well as irresponsible. “We now appeal to the public to look at the truth and to reject the lies of selfish and shameless politicians,” the group says.

The group is demanding that the government carry out any decision of the court promptly and without delay, should any of the five applicants win their cases.

“We also demand that the Immigration Department, for the sake of reflecting equality as one of our core values, treat both foreign domestic workers and persons of non-Chinese nationality who work in Hong Kong equally, in handling applications for permanent residency.”

It also calls on them to apologise for the harm they have done to the group of people to whom the residents of Hong Kong entrust the care of their children and aged relatives 


Signatories to statement on right of abode issue 

  • Right of Abode University
  • Kwai Chung Estate Christian Basic Community
  • Grassroots Cultural Centre
  • PIME Social Concern Group
  • Right of Abode Committee
  • Concern Group for Cross-Border Family Children
  • Hong Kong Christian Institute
  • League of Social Democrats
  • Justice and Peace Commission of the
  • Hong Kong Catholic Diocese
  • Legislative Councillor Leung Kwok Hung’s Office
  • Office of District Councillor
  • To Kwan Hang, Andrew
  • Left 21
  • Hong Kong Federation of Students
  • Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
  • Hong Kong Women Workers Association
  • Chinese University Student Press
  • The Association for the Advancement of Feminism
  • People Planning In-Action
  • Woman Coalition of HKSAR
  • Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor
  • The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students’ Union
  • V-activist
  • Autonomous 8A
  • The Forthright Caucus
  • Civil Human Rights Front
  • Zi Teng
  • CSSA Alliance
  • Sham Shui Po Community Association
  • A Generation
  • The Student Union of The Hong Kong
  • Baptist University
  • Community Development Alliance
  • Alliance for back to Christ
  • Grassroots Development Centre
  • April Fifth Action
  • Hong Kong Women Christian Council
  • Green Radio
  • HK Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs
  • Student Union of Chinese University of HK



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