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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

Border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared their stories More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs