News / Asia

Hong Kong Denies Maids' Residency

Reporters gather outside the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, March 25, 2013.
Reporters gather outside the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, March 25, 2013.
Ivan Broadhead
After three years of legal argument, the highest court in Hong Kong has upheld a government appeal that denies overseas domestic workers the right to residency in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The case has implications for Hong Kong’s judicial independence from Beijing, and the rights of poor migrant workers across Asia.   
                                            
The unanimous decision Monday by five judges in the Court of Final Appeal ended a constitutional challenge by domestic workers Evangeline Banao Vallejos and Daniel Domingo.

The Philippine appellants argued that, like white collar expats, foreign domestic workers should be entitled to permanent Hong Kong residency after working seven years in the city.

Eman Villanueva, of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, labeled the verdict discriminatory.    

“There are more than 300,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong and the message is very unfair: the court’s ruling gives the judicial seal … to the social exclusion of foreign domestic workers," said Villanueva.

Government figures indicate that around 100,000 maids and their dependents, mainly from developing Asian nations, were eligible to apply for abode after Vallejos and Domingo won their initial case in 2011. Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok noted that more than 1,000 residency applications already had been received.

“The government welcomes the verdict [and] will proceed to process new and pending applications submitted by foreign helpers according to the law as affirmed by the court," said Lai.

Migrant women in low paid domestic jobs across Asia and the Middle East - working to support families back home - saw the 2011 decision as a sign of hope, says Holly Allen of the NGO Helpers for Domestic Helpers. Now, she says, other states might not seek to improve migrant worker rights, spurred on by Hong Kong’s lead.

“They work long hours; some up to 20 hours a day with very little rest," said Allen. "Canada, maybe some other western countries allow foreign domestic workers to apply for residency, but no other countries in Asia.”

The Hong Kong public is divided on the decision, despite almost universal fears that schools, hospitals and public housing in the territory - with a population of 7 million - risks being overwhelmed by tens of thousands of migrant workers simultaneously claiming abode.

The case also has escalated concern about the erosion of judicial autonomy in Hong Kong. This occurs at a time the Communist Party in Beijing is increasingly aware of anti-China sentiment in the city, and the waning popularity of a local leadership it helped put into office.

While the court confirmed Hong Kong’s constitutional authority in immigration matters, Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen says that would not preclude asking Beijing to settle a years-old case relating to the rights of children born locally to mainland fathers.

“Our position has been very clear; that we are trying our very best to resolve all the legal issues concerning [these] babies by avenues available in the local legal system," said Yuen. "We will exhaust our means before we do anything [else].”

Any deferral to Beijing promises to cause further tension in Hong Kong, where a civil disobedience movement driven by an increasingly disenfranchised middle class is gathering momentum - its aim to strengthen democracy, not weaken it by relinquishing autonomy.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid