Plight of Domestic Workers Currently Staying in Hong Kong

Plight of Domestic Workers currently staying in Hong Kong

Highlights

  • Hong Kong permanent residency
  • Eligibility to settle in Hong Kong
  • Domestic Workers currently staying in Hong Kong

In its ruling on Monday morning, the top court in Hong Kong ruled that foreign domestic workers do not, as a group, enjoy the right to apply for Hong Kong permanent residency. The judge stated that this was because their residence in Hong Kong is highly restricted. According to the court of final appeal, the foreign domestic helper is required to return to the country of origin once the contract period expires. Even during the admission process, it is made clear to them that the purpose of entry is not for settlement purposes and that their dependents cannot be brought to live in Hong Kong. This disadvantaged the many domestic helpers who wished to secure permanent residency for them alongside their loved ones. Further, the court also rejected the request brought forward by the Hong Kong government who sought an interpretation from Beijing citing it unnecessary since the court had reached a conclusion through reading the Basic Law alone. They assert once this was done, there was no need to refer to a petition presented earlier in the year 1999.

The government led by Leung Chun-Ying requested the court to seek an interpretation from Beijing aimed at clarifying the real meaning of a previous statement of the article on Basic Law that specifies which persons qualify for the Hong Kong permanent residency. With the issue of the judgment, the right of abode saga started by Evangeline Vallejos Banao comes to an end. On her part, Vallejos had argued that a provision in the immigration which disqualifies domestic workers from being issued with the Hong Kong permanent residency was illegal and unconstitutional. In 2011, Vallejos won a High Court ruling in which she was granted permanent residency status which had been denied to the more than 300,000 foreign domestic helpers in the city. Consequently, the government appealed this decision, and the ruling was overturned.

Before the change in the decision, labor rights activists had praised the verdict as a tremendous step for equal rights for maids who symbolized the backbone of the society in the richer Asian economies. However, the Court of Final Appeal warned that the ruling would congest the city even with its population of seven million people. This judgment highlighted that maids would continue to be excluded from eligibility to settle in Hong Kong. If the ruling had been in their favor, the right to vote as well as the right to reside without a visa would be granted to the helpers.

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