Updated: Nov 27, 2019
The protests in Hong Kong have received a great deal of media coverage over the past few weeks, however, their implications on foreign domestic workers have received minimal attention. There are several aspects to this issue, two of which will be raised in this blog post.
One aspect which has had great implications for domestic workers is the restriction on public transport. The significance arises due to the curfew that domestic workers will often have on their one day off . If public transport stops running, they may not be able to make it to their employer’s residence in time meaning that they risk losing their jobs . Al Jazeera has written about two domestic workers who were faced with this exact issue. Luckily, for one of the workers, the employer was very understanding and cautioned her to ‘stay safe’ while making her way back to the residence . Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as this domestic worker was. Another domestic worker recounts how her employer dismissed her over text since she did not make it back in time for her curfew . When the domestic worker finally did make it back to the residence, she was not allowed inside and was told that her belongings would be sent back to her employment agency .
Another curious development of events has left domestic workers under increased scrutiny from the local community. In October 2019, the Washington Post wrote about some fliers that had been distributed in Hong Kong . Although it is uncertain whether or not the fliers were legitimate and who they were targeting, they seemed to be calling for domestic workers to report on ‘Hong Kong’s radical protest[ers]’ . What may be the most concerning aspect to this is that the distribution of these fliers may create distrust between domestic workers and their employers . Even though many believe that the fliers are ingenuine, they may have the effect of placing domestic workers under increased scrutiny .
It is clear that the current situation is potentially placing domestic workers in an increasingly vulnerable position. In order to combat this, there needs to be a greater focus on the role and the impact that the protests are having on domestic workers. Overall, there needs to be more effective regulation and most importantly, enforcement of laws protecting the rights of domestic workers.
1. Labour Department ‘Practical Guide for Employment of Foreign Domestic Helpers’ <https://www.fdh.labour.gov.hk/res/pdf/FDHguideEnglish.pdf> accessed 29 Oct 2019, 12.
2. Betsy Joles and Jaime Chu ‘Domestic Workers Search for Rights amid Pro-Democracy Protests’ (Al Jazeera, 21 Oct 2019) <https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/domestic-workers-search-rights-pro-democracy-protests-191020174734212.html> accessed 29 Oct 2019.
6. Casey Quackenbush ‘Hong Kong’s Domestic Workers Feel Caught Between Both Sides in Information War’ (The Washington Post, 23 Oct 2019) <’https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/hong-kongs-domestic-workers-feel-caught-between-both-sides-in-information-war/2019/10/22/2f15fb1c-ea0a-11e9-a329-7378fbfa1b63_story.html> accessed 29 Oct 2019.