Hong Kong

OFW falls, dies after ‘cleaning window’ of Hong Kong flat

Michelle Abad

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OFW falls, dies after ‘cleaning window’ of Hong Kong flat

CHEUNG SHA WAN. Hong Kong residential district Cheung Sha Wan on December 28, 2021.


(1st UPDATE) Consul General Raly Tejada deplores the incident as Hong Kong restricted foreign domestic workers from dangerous window-cleaning starting in 2017

Trigger warning: The following piece discusses death.

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino domestic worker believed to be cleaning windows fell from a Hong Kong apartment and died on Monday, May 15, according to the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong.

In a video released by the consulate on Tuesday, May 16, Consul General Raly Tejada confirmed the tragedy.

Isa po itong kalunos-lunos na trahedya at kami po ay nakikiramay sa pamilya ng ating kababayan at makakaasa po [sila] ng pagtulong ng ating gobyerno mula sa trahedyang ito,” said Tejada. (This is an unfortunate tragedy, and we express our sympathies to the family of our fellow Filipino. They can expect help from our government.)

Tejada added that the incident was “deplorable” as the Hong Kong government, since 2017, restricted dangerous window-cleaning.

Citing a police report, The Sun said that staff reported seeing the 38-year-old Filipina lying on a platform in Manhattan Hill at Po Lun Street, Cheung Sha Wan at 11:23 am on Monday.

Police arrived at the scene and rushed the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) to the Caritas Hospital. She was later declared dead despite attempts at resuscitation, Hong Kong’s The Standard said.

“After initial investigation, the personnel believed that the subject fell [while] cleaning a unit on the site,” The Sun quoted the police report as saying.

The South China Morning Post, citing a source familiar with the case, said that a bottle of window-cleaning solvent was found in the room where the OFW fell from.

Tejada said that the Philippine consulate was coordinating with the Hong Kong government to further investigate.

Atin rin po nating mino-monitor nang maigi ang imbestigasyon na ginagawa ng kapulisan, nang sa ganon sana ay mabigyan ng katarungan ang kamatayan ng ating kababayan,” said Tejada. (We are closely monitoring the investigation being undertaken by the police. We hope that this will lead to achieving justice for the death of our fellow Filipino.)

United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante-HK) chairperson Dolores Balladares Pelaez called for a swift investigation on the OFW’s death.

Sa pagkamatay ng ating kababayan na nahulog sa bintana habang naglilinis, taos-pusong pakikiramay sa pamilya ang aming pinaabot. Panawagan namin ang mabilisang imbestigasyon at dapat managot ang employer kung mapatunayang inutusan nito ang domestic worker na maglinis ng bintana kahit bawal, para makamit ang hustisya,” said Pelaez.

(We express our deepest sympathies to the family of our fellow Filipino who fell from a window while cleaning it and died. We call for a swift investigation to exact accountability from the employer if it is proven that he or she ordered the domestic worker to clean the window even if it is not allowed, so justice can be achieved.)

In January 2017, the Hong Kong Labor Department (LD) began including a safety clause in foreign domestic workers’ contracts on cleaning outward-facing windows.

This clause provides that when an employer requires their household worker to clean the outside of any window not located on the ground level, adjacent to a balcony, or on a common corridor, the following conditions must be met:

  • The window being cleaned is fitted with a grille that is locked or secured in a way that prevents the grille from being opened
  • No part of the worker’s body may extend beyond the window ledge except the arms.

In the release of the announcement of the clause, a spokesman for the LD noted the consultations that it undertook following concerns from the community about the safety of foreign domestic workers when cleaning outside-facing windows.

Hong Kong government ‘vows’ assistance

In a statement on Friday, May 19, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said that the Philippine and Hong Kong governments will work “closely together” to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

The DMW said that in a phone conversation between Philippine Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople and Hong Kong Secretary for Labor and Welfare Chris Sun, the latter “vowed to extend as much assistance as possible to the bereaved family.” 

The department referred to the deceased OFW as “Lyn.” She was unmarried at the time of her death, and her two siblings were in Hong Kong as of Friday under the care of the Philippine consulate and the Migrant Workers Office. 

The DMW said authorities were facilitating the repatriation of the remains, as well as meetings with the OFW’s employer and the Hong Kong Employees’ Compensation Division.

“We will extend full assistance and support to her bereaved family while working closely with Secretary Chris Sun and his department to ensure that the principle of ‘safety above all else’ is carried out as part of employers’ obligations,” Ople said.

“Secretary Sun and I discussed the need to remind employers of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong about the prohibition in the standard employment contract on window-cleaning which has been in effect since 2017,” she added.

As of 2021, data from the Hong Kong government showed that there were over 191,000 Filipino domestic workers in the special administrative region. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.