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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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