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Hong Kong Court Rules Against Foreign Domestic Workers

Sringatin, a member of a domestic workers union, cries outside the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, Mar. 25, 2013.
Hong Kong's highest court has thrown out a case that would have given hundreds of thousands of foreign domestic helpersthe right to seek permanent residency, giving them the same rights as other foreign workers.

The five-judge Court of Final Appeal was unanimous in its ruling Monday, siding with the government, which argued that a favorable ruling would swamp the already overcrowded city's population.

Lawyers for two domestic workers from the Philippines, who had filed the suit, had argued that an immigration provision barring domestic workers from permanent residency was unconstitutional.

The court said foreign domestic helpers are obliged to return to their country of origin at the end of their contract, are are told from the outset that admission is not for the purposes of settlement.

Hong Kong government officials had suggested that the case be referred to Beijing to clarify who is entitled to apply for permanent residency, the closest thing the special Chinese territory has to citizenship.

That idea angered many residents who said that action would jeopardize Hong Kong's judicial independence.