CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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Indonesians snubbed by their president
HONG KONG (SE): The Indonesia Migrant Workers Union expressed extreme frustration that the biggest representation of their country people in Hong Kong, migrant domestic workers, were denied any access to their president, Joko Widodo, at a forum on April 30 while he was visiting the city.
 
The chairperson of the union, Sringatin, told UCAN that the Indonesian Consulate General had been advised that the Indonesian community wished to personally hand a joint petition from 70 migrant groups to the president.
 
However, she regretted, “But security guards at the venue stopped us from doing so.”
 
Two community leaders from the union, Sringatin and Eni Lestari, said in a statement that at a forum with the Indonesian community, the vast majority of whom are migrant domestic workers, the request to meet the president personally was denied.
 
“Two of our domestic workers’ leaders were also intimidated by the presidential security guard,” they said. “Yet the president did not address the problems of migrant workers in any significant manner.”
 
In frustration the migrants quickly organised a picket action near the High Court and the Conrad Hotel in Admiralty in order to publicly state what their president had refused to hear.
 
Lestari described the rally as a demand on both the Hong Kong and Indonesian governments to take action against the practice of agencies confiscating the passports of workers who still have outstanding debts for their work contracts.
 
Although the practice is illegal under Hong Kong law, it is permitted by Indonesia and Lestari has constantly complained that the local government simply puts the problem in the too hard basket saying that it cannot overrule the authority of a foreign government, even when it is breaking the law on territory under its own jurisdiction.
 
Sringatin described it as a Catch 22 situation, as it makes it impossible for an Indonesian to make a complaint about any employer who does not abide by the conditions of the contract.
 
The only place to do this is the Labour Bureau, which is not open on weekends when workers are allowed out, and it won’t accept any complaint without showing a passport as identification.
 
However, during his brief stay in the city, Widodo did sign a joint statement on labour cooperation with the chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, on a commitment to protect the 145,000 citizens of his county in Hong Kong, despite the fact that his government sanctions the confiscation of one of their prime sources of protection—their passports!
 
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