Silent helpers

Devon Wong
Filipinos in Hong Kong struggle against a rule that grants residency status to foreigners but not to maids

HONG KONG – Filipinos in Hong Kong struggle against a rule that grants residency status to foreigners but not to maids.
Devon Wong reports.

For forty years, Mely worked as a domestic worker in Hong Kong. Today, she is 76.
In 2 years, Mely intends to finally move back to the Philippines.
She is one of the first Filipina domestic workers employed in Hong Kong.
But Mely and other domestic workers still aren’t considered “ordinary residents” under Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
ROWENA DELA CRUZ: We find it discriminatory. We also contribute to the economy of Hong Kong, but we are not included in the right to vote.
The Hong Kong constitution states that a foreigner can apply for permanent residency after living in Hong Kong for 7 years, but domestic workers are specifically excluded.
Unlike other foreign residents, domestic workers cannot vote and access public services.
So while Mely continues to spend the majority of her time in Hong Kong, she can only cast a vote in a country she hasn’t lived in since the 70’s.
MELY BONUELLE: Oh, I want to vote for the nice people! (“Who did you vote for in the last election?”). I voted for Benigno Aquino, the President.
Last year, a long-time domestic worker named Evangeline Vallejos challenged the rule barring maids from permanent residency status and won in a landmark ruling.
The government won on appeal and the case is now with Hong Kong’s highest court.
In the meanwhile, overseas Filipino workers rely on self-organized services.
Living in Hong Kong is very nice. I love Hong Kong. This is my second home.
If the ruling is overturned, nearly 120, 000 current and former domestic workers will be eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Until then, domestic workers like Mely are lobbying the Hong Kong government, hoping one day they’ll be more than silent foreigners in their county of employment.
Devon Wong, Hong Kong, Rappler.


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