News

    Hong Kong Court Overturns Case Granting Foreign Maids Residency

    United Filipinos in Hong Kong chairperson Dolores Balladares, Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body spokesperson Eni Lestari and Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers' representative Ganika Diristiani (from L-R), pose with the court verdict outside the Hi
    United Filipinos in Hong Kong chairperson Dolores Balladares, Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body spokesperson Eni Lestari and Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers' representative Ganika Diristiani (from L-R), pose with the court verdict outside the Hi
    Ivan Broadhead

    The Hong Kong government won a legal appeal Wednesday, overturning the right of foreign domestic workers to claim permanent residency in the southern Chinese city. It's a verdict that advocacy groups describe as discriminatory.

    After living and working in Hong Kong for more than a decade, Filipino domestic worker Evangeline Vallejos took the city’s Immigration Department to court last November.

    Her aim was to win the same right of permanent abode accorded to thousands of skilled white-collar expats after seven years’ residence - a right defined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

    The High Court found in favor of Vallejos. Its judgment upheld her argument that the Basic Law, effective since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, applies to all people equally.

    However, that verdict was overturned by Hong Kong’s appeal court Wednesday. The court concluded: "It is a fundamental principle that a sovereign state has the power to admit, exclude and expel aliens."

    Dolores Balladares is chairwoman of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, a migrant worker advocacy group that supports Vallejos.

    "We are very disappointed. It discriminates against foreign domestic workers if others can apply for the right of abode, but why not foreign domestic workers," asks Balladares.

    Migrant workers' rights vs. state law

    While the terms of employment for migrant workers are significantly better in Hong Kong than other Asian countries, including Singapore and Malaysia, maids are permitted just one statutory day of rest a week and are precluded from Hong Kong’s minimum wage legislation. Instead, they often work 15 hours a day - caring for children, cooking and cleaning - for a basic weekly salary of only $110.

    Justice Andrew Leung added in the court’s judgment that their exclusion from the provisions of the Basic Law "is a category of exclusion not different in kind, but only in degree, from the pre-existing categories of excluded persons, for instance, Vietnamese refugees and imprisoned or detained persons."

    The November judgment was seen as an important advance in the rights of migrant workers across Asia. It sparked protests, though, among Hong Kong’s indigenous Chinese community.

    Of the 300,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong - predominantly from the Philippines and Indonesia - about 120,000 fulfill the seven-year residency requirement.

    However, politicians and community groups argued that far more, perhaps up to half a million people, would be eligible for permanent residency if maids’ dependent relatives were included in the decision.

    Estimates suggested it would cost local taxpayers more than $11 billion to pay for the education, health and other social benefits to which these potential new permanent residents would be entitled.

    Balladares argues such fears are misplaced.

    "We believe the Philippines is our home and really, we want to return there after working here," she said.

    Further appeals expected

    Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee told reporters that Hong Kong would continue to suspend the 900 applications for permanent abode already made by migrant workers after the November decision. He said he also expected Vallejos to take her case to the Court of Final Appeal.

    "Therefore at this stage, the government will not regard the judgment as a final determination of the relevant legal issue," said Lee.

    Should Vallejos prevail at the Court of Final Appeal, Lee did not preclude amending the Basic Law, a constitutional process that would require the involvement of the central government in Beijing.

    "There are lots of comments on [re]interpretation of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress. These are very controversial issues. The amendment of the Basic Law is not yet on our horizon," said Lee.

    Approaching Beijing to resolve the abode question would be widely unpopular among a public that fiercely guards its judicial independence from China under the principle of one country, two systems.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jonathan Huang
    March 28, 2012 7:11 PM
    last time I checked HK is not an immigrant city. HK is already saturated, even Chinese are hard to resident there, no need to mention Filipinos.

    by: Steve Fraser
    March 28, 2012 3:18 PM
    This is useless and pointless case. At the end, BeiJing has the final say regarding this matter. Why waste $$$$ on this thing when you well know the result will not be favourable. It is pure stupidity for filipinos and indonesians to fight a losing battle. Mark Daly is just taking advantage of these group of people.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora