October 26th, 2011
02:07 PM GMT
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Hong Kong, China (CNN) – “There’s still a long battle ahead.”

That’s what Mark Daly, the lawyer for Filipina maid Evangeline Vallejos, first told me after a Hong Kong court today ruled to uphold a prior judge’s historic verdict.

That September 30 judgment: His client – and all other eligible foreign domestic workers here – are entitled to apply for permanent residency. Also known as PR, it has been a right afforded to most white-collar foreign workers but foreign maids have traditionally not been eligible. Partly because of this, many have complained they are treated as second-class citizens.

But perhaps not anymore.

Following Wednesday's court ruling, Daly expects Hong Kong has no choice but to declare Ms. Vallejos a permanent resident. She has worked in Hong Kong for 25 years. Current law stipulates a foreign worker can apply for PR after working in the territory for seven years.

The finding also has ramifications for the estimated 292,000 other foreign maids in Hong Kong. About 117,000 of them – or nearly 40% – can now apply to live here for the rest of their lives.

Emmanuel Villanueva, spokesman for Hong Kong’s Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, conveyed his happiness to me via text.

“This is a victory not only for her but for all foreign domestic workers who have been treated by the HK government unfairly. We hope that the government will implement the judgment immediately.”

That hope, however, may already be dashed. The Hong Kong government filed another appeal right after the ruling.

In previous arguments, Hong Kong officials have cited this socio-economic doomsday scenario: Current Hong Kong taxpayers would be hit with more than $3 billion in social welfare spending for up to half a million new immigrants, spouses and children.

But two analyses in just the past few weeks now counter that.

Hong Kong’s Mission for Migrant Workers released a study aimed at debunking the argument that the extended family of maids would be a burden to Hong Kong society. Of the 162 foreign domestic workers who responded, only 54% of them were actually eligible to apply for PR. Nearly 59% had no dependents under the age of 18.

Furthermore, Paul Yip, a professor of Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong – who also holds a PhD in biostatistics – analyzed the government’s evidence and concluded the findings were “crude, biased, highly-questionable, unrealistic, if not entirely misleading.”

As for fears of a flood of Hong Kong maids, Villanueva of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body readily admits it has been difficult to find foreign domestic workers who want to apply for PR status.

The reason is economic reality: You don't need PR to earn Hong Kong dollars, which provide big bang for the buck for families back in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Says Villanueva, “The right of abode is not a top of concern. Higher wages, shorter working hours and better job protection is more important than getting PR. Foreign domestic workers would rather have jobs here, earn some money and send it back home. (The basic monthly salary of) $3470 can get you one entry-level iPad here. But in the Philippines that can send your children to school. That can feed your family.”

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. T

    Isn't it ironic that Hong Kong is talking about giving time away from work for both Mother and Father after the birth of a newborm?

    Everyone knows that Hong Kong China never raise their kids in the first place. Any time off would result in their Filipino maid being forced to spend more time wiith the child while the parents went to Macau or Singapore.......

    October 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  2. Lee

    I use to like visiting Hong kong especially Central and Causeway bay but not anymore, because on a Sundays Victoria Park, Hong Kong bank, Central and other open spaces are all flourished and occupied by foreign maid's. It's as if I had landed in Philippine, it's just terrible experience not to mention Hong Kong is already heavily populated.

    October 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  3. miscellaneous4cesar

    And the fight for immigrant rights continues.....

    October 26, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  4. Delon

    @Lee That's an outrageous statement. In the Philippines, there are lots of China Town there, it feels as if I'm in China, not to mention that a lot of Chinese there are drug lords.

    October 26, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  5. mcalleyboy

    These maids make an average of $300 a month for services rendered, many of these woman send all their money home to their husband and kids or family in the Philippines, I'm not so crazy about Hong Kong either, unsure why they would want to live there the rest of their lives they really should have put away a little money every month and also try to make money on the side and open up their own business in the Philippines it requires so little money to get started here and its way more friendly than HK.

    October 26, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  6. Michael

    If they get PR, they can then apply for any job they want. They wouldn't be stuck with the slave...oops maid "job" . Many of these people have Degrees, in education, nursing etc...and unfortunately for them...being a slave...oops sorry again....a maid / domestic helper is much better financially for them.
    I ask the people here to consider...how many of you would want to leave a job that you need to work 12-16hours a day....6 days a week....get abused by your employer...mentally...emotionally. I'm not saying everyone who employs a domestic here in Hong Kong treats them badly..but unfortunately....they are the minority.
    Writer's note: My wife is a former Philippine Domestic Helper, She has her degree in Education, and I've heard first hand and read too many stories about what truly goes on here in HK.

    October 26, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  7. Michael

    @ Lee : I second Leon's condemnation of your note. How sad and I'm sorry typical comment. May all the Hong Kong Chinese who immigrated to Vancouver should get the *&^% out ?? What do they offer....have raised home prices for "Born Canadians" ....they don't participate in the community....little thing that we call Multiculturalism in Canada..that most Canadians are proud of..and participate in...but hmmm from what I experienced in Vancouver....when I lived there...the Local Chinese population from HK..didn't bother to socialize with their community..unless the outside community was Chinese origin...and imported there version of racism..to Canada....I mean...if I am going to be as narrow minded as you..I should tell these Hong Kong Chinese..to get the F out...because they are not offering anything positive to my great country.......2 can play your game...and trust me...you do want the tables reversed....

    October 27, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  8. Ina

    Lee, you're obviously Chinese and you sound fairly educated, but then again maybe not.

    October 27, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  9. E

    Lee, all those maids were in HK before, you just didn't see them because they weren't given a day off. They worked 7-day weeks. Now, they are at least given one day off. They fill the streets of Central because they have no where to go. I admire that they work so hard in such terrible conditions and are still able to smile and laugh with their friends. They are often treated horribly by their employers and work harder than anyone else in HK, and racism against them is prevalent. Would you be able to smile if you were in their place?

    October 27, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  10. Keith

    No one points a gun at a domestic helper and forces them to do the job. Whether they have one degree or three PhDs, it's their personal choice to be a domestic helper. If they suffer from dicrimination and treated badly, it is still their choice to be a domestic help. Maybe the real question is what is wrong with their own home country that they are willing to go and become a domestic help and suffer the abuses when they are so highly educated.

    October 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  11. martin

    thanks Michael for your words, thank you becouse you call these women slaves as they really are. I am italian i know the works condition of these maids/slaves in HK, i can easily compare with the condition of the Filipino in my country where they have rights and wages equal to all the italian citizens.
    Just hope more and more people will raise to help the struggle of these workers and we will not see ever again in future posts like the one of dearest Mr Lee that probably lost his humanity somewhere...
    thank you again Michael , tell your wife she is not alone..

    October 28, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  12. Harvey

    I think it's kind of sad that one of the biggest – if not THE biggest – exports of the Philippines is its people (especially women). Has anyone measured how many pinays are overseas working so they can send money home? While I'm glad for the Hong Kong PR decision, it would be better if so many didn't need it. If people could stay home in the PI, work, and feed their families. The things really dragging the Philippines down are (1) The educational system is substandard (e.g., degrees earned there mean little in the U.S. and other developed countries); (2) The rampant corruption – not just at the highest levels, but at every level of society – make transforming the country into a first world country impossible. Just sad.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  13. jmj42

    I pity my gov't for putting my fellow countrymen in an unfavorable situation though this thing has been in existence for so long that it has become a chronic in our society, and yet, our gov't cannot seemed to address nor find a remedy on this matter. Nothing is wrong in sending our people to some foreign lands for as long as they are given ample security to the point that human dignity is preserved likewise, be treated on the same equal footing with some other foreign workers whether it's up for skilled or white collar jobs.It's still somebody's garbage and somebody going to take the job done. why can't we fix the situation first here in our own backyard instead of crying out for PR or whatever in some foreign country.

    October 31, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  14. lex

    truly sad when the biggest dream of every person is to leave their own country and immigrate elsewhere..

    November 1, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  15. RomanianClown

    Don't work as foreign domestic helpers.
    Go home and build factories.

    November 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  16. bon basije

    I commiserate with Lee's plight but mine is on health matters. I used to take my meals on ceramic plates but since China started flooding the US market with toxic consumer products i switched to paper plates.

    November 7, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  17. Truth

    I agree with Lee.

    I really hate how these maids take advantage of the PR system.
    On the other hand, there is no Rule of Law in HK, good luck with the court proceedings.

    November 7, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  18. Room

    I don't know how many Chinese people from Hong Kong is opposing to recognize that the domestic worker can or should be able to apply for PR. It is very sad that they forgot about UK and Hong Kong. Isn't it the same as the colonial era? Many Chinese from Hong Kong wants British passport but UK government refused it and the Hong Kong Chinese complained because of that and now they are doing the same thing to domestic helper? How sad huh?

    November 8, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  19. Truth

    As you said, colonial area. Philippines or Indonesia a colony of HK? no.

    November 8, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  20. Rimton Gupta

    Philippines should formulate a strict policy of population control. Then it won't have a surplus of poor people who would be willing to work as maids, servants and nannies all over the world to feed themselves & their families. Only then can it rid itself of the oft repeated phrase of a "nation of servants".

    November 11, 2011 at 3:43 am |
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