Update from Hemlock

Another calm and relaxing morning in Perpetual Opulence Mansions. The building’s breadwinners have glided down the hill on the wondrous, semi-high-speed transport infrastructure that is the Mid-Levels Escalator to their bustling offices in the central business district of Asia’s leading international financial, cultural, arbitration and wine hub. Children have been dropped off at their summer French, piano, painting and fun differential-calculus activities classes. Frail grandparents, in the households that treasure traditional values of filial piety, are spoon-fed, washed, walked and otherwise amused by lowly paid Indonesian girls who steal samples of their wards’ fingernail clippings for use in casting magic spells. For the next eight or nine hours, the whole block, like all the exclusive residences in these prosperous streets overlooking Hong Kong’s Central District, is under the control of its Filipino maids.

Mindful of the extortionate bills levied by Mr Li Ka-shing’s Hongkong Electric, I adjust the air conditioning in my little home office. As I sip my oolong and peruse the news on-line, the doorbell rings. I leap up to answer it and find a small, dusky lady clutching a booklet titled How to Share Christ Effectively. “They’re busy,” I tell the shocked face. “And yes – I am in! Didn’t expect that did you?” She scuttles off and I pace through the sweltering living room of the apartment where the two Filipino elves are kneeling and carefully scrubbing the parquet with little toothbrushes.

“Just a Jehovah’s Witness,” I lie. “The security guard has taken him away to tear his tongue out with red hot tongs.” They have done over half the floor in the last two hours and are glistening with sweat. Our socialistic, interventionist government, not content with taxing the neighbourhood’s hard-working middle class half to death and driving businesses to the wall by imposing a minimum wage, has issued an impertinent decree ordering employers to Assess the risk of heat stroke to employees – tremble and obey. “Alright,” I announce to the two figures at my feet, “you can have two minutes off to drink water.”

In the kitchen, I see a list. A very long list. ‘Maria, Jesus, Trixie, Ritzy, Vilma, Aunt Maribeth, Uncle Bong-Bong, Aunt Marcelina, Cousin Sweety, Cousin Manny, Cousin Nilda…’ It goes on and on.

“Are these by any chance the family members you plan to bring over here if domestic helpers get right of abode?” I ask the senior of my loyal and devoted pair of ‘part-times’.

“Some of them,” she replies.

The newspapers report that the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong is warning of dire repercussions should a group of maids win a forthcoming court case in which they claim residency on the grounds that they have lived in Hong Kong for seven years. Millions of brown-skinned, loincloth-wearing savages would descend upon Hong Kong and roam the streets of Kowloon looking for furry animals to kill with their blowpipes. Food supplies would run out, and unemployment would rise to 50% while the government built dozens of vast new public housing estates. Or something like that. Our leaders might ask Beijing to declare the law to mean the opposite of what it says, or maybe it would resort to sinister-sounding stopgap measures, possibly involving cattle trucks and forced marches.

The DAB is a pro-communist party with a support base among the – non-maid-employing – grassroots in the fetid slums across the harbour.  Its voters are the sort of people whose relatives moved from the Mainland and had to wait seven years before qualifying for welfare; they don’t much approve of foreigners at the best of times and particularly dislike dark ones, especially the uppity sort who are happier and better at English than they are.

Maybe they have a point: could we handle so many people grinning all the time?

“So where would they all live?” I ask.

“Lantau,” comes the reply, “near where we catch squid at night.”

The deputy elf chimes in: “There are free water buffalo there!”

Mention of beasts of burden leads me to glance at the clock. They have had 15 seconds more watering time than required by law.


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16 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Darovia says:

    I thought all these dire things were going to happen if we didn’t build a third runway yesterday. You mean there is MORE? Miserarum nobis.

  2. Stephen says:

    A few queries;

    In bygone colonial days Domestic Helpers could attain permanent residency in HK ?

    That being the case how many of them establised HK as their permanent residence say from 1990 to 1997 ?

    HK now has equality laws – which it did not in colonial times – meaning Domestic Helpers should be able gain permanent residency. However due to the “continuous seven years” stipulation and that their contracts are set at 2 years means that their action will probably fail in the eyes of the courts.

    Mind you watching and listening to the remarks made by the smirking Starry Lee of the DAB on last night news made me want to retch.

    Are we still Asia’s World City or have we correctly dropped that as it’s clearly a lie?

  3. Stinger says:

    Stephen, from yesterday’s SCMP:

    “Hong Kong’s “Asia world city” aspirations remain, at best, a troubled work in progress…”

  4. Gerald says:

    I thought I was a Western Liberal (Not the local “Liberal”) until this issue came up. Sure – the Filipinos and Indonesians who have lived here seven years should be entitled as of right to be awarded Permanent Residency, but if they win their case there will be thousands of DH’s applying and even more coming to join them as dependants.
    We’ve already seen the socio-economic problems resulting from the 180? per day Mainlanders who are allowed to settle here e.g. Tin Shui Wai and Sham Shui Po, but these would likely be overshadowed by this new influx, not to mention the ensuing racial/political problems.
    Or am I simply becoming a reactionary old bigot?

  5. Vile says:

    The tricky issue is that the domestic slave visa was invented with the clear intention that its recipients would never be allowed permanent residency, otherwise the applicants would have to meet the same criteria as for any other employment visa.

    Therefore, looked at holistically, if domestic workers were to be allowed to apply for permanent residency in line with everyone else, the visa requirements would also have to be in line … and there would be no more foreign domestic helpers.

  6. Probably says:

    Have the DAB not realised that if their argument is valid then it applies to all persons granted permanent residence regardless of their origins – hence at a stroke putting up an argument against any further influx of mainland immigrants. Has anyone told the CCP??

  7. Stinger says:

    Leaving aside the practical issues for a moment, Beijing will never allow this to happen because it would increase the volume of non-Chinese voices in HK, which is politically unacceptable. If by some miracle this JR succeeds, we’ll have a government appeal and a referral to the NPCSC, so the conclusion is foregone.

    This concept of cultural supremacy by weight is why we get X number of mainlanders taking up residence in HK every day, notwithstanding the inadequate supply of jobs or housing for these people. And another item is added to the list of reasons why HK is inexorably, inevitably, losing ground to Singapore. (I’d still rather be here, at least for now.)

    Of course, all this is good news if we eventually have global Chinese hegemony. Let’s see how the South China Sea test case turns out and take it from there.

  8. Mike Hunt says:

    Vile made a very good point. Any foreigner applying for a work visa must show that they do a job that cannot be filled by a local. By that standard not a single Flipper amah would be working in HK right now.

    As far as the ‘domestic slave visa’ is concerned: earning 4 times as much for doing very light domestic work in air-conditioned comfort (including 2 hours yapping on the phone every day) as one would earn tilling rice paddies in the comfort of tropical sunshine does not, in first instance, remind me of slavery.

  9. Stinger says:

    Mike, fair points, but that particular immigration rule is enforced loosely to say the least. It’s a fairly typical case of tough rule, selective enforcement.

  10. Stephen says:


    I don’t usually multi reply, and agree with alot of what you have written, but;

    “This concept of cultural supremacy by weight is why we get X number of mainlanders taking up residence in HK every day, notwithstanding the inadequate supply of jobs or housing for these people”

    No that would be, mostly, family reunion.

    The similarities between the bigoted inaccurate opinions made during the right of abode issue in the late ’90’s and this shows HK at its worse.

  11. Stinger says:

    Fair enough Stephen. I am always open to more and better information and improving my views.

    But if it is all about family reunion, why was such an effort made to nullify that very justification (with which I have no complaint and would personally support) during the several right of abode-related cases and via the NPCSC interpretation?

    In fact, arguments based on family unity have repeatedly failed in other rights-based cases before the courts too.

    If family reunion is the true reason behind the daily intake from the mainland, hasn’t the government’s past behaviour been a little hypocritical?

    Or is it simply a reflection of the Johnny Howard mantra: we (in this case the respective governments) will decide who comes to HK and in what circumstances?

  12. isomoliu says:

    China deviously gets to decide who gets the one-way permit, not Hong Kong. The Basic Law says so.

  13. Mike Hunt says:

    Yes, the Government decides who comes to Hong Kong and under what circumstances, thank goodness. If that was not the case, all of Asia would be on our doorsteps.

  14. Real Tax Payer says:


    Beijing’s man in charge of Hong Kong affairs on Wednesday described local civil servants as “strong in execution, but weak in planning”, blaming their training under the British colonial system for rendering them incapable of managing the city

    How true ! How true !

    LOL !

  15. chopped onions says:

    Its bullshit and we all know it. A Chinese maid, willing to live in, work 16 hrs a day and be treated like shit…….ha ha. They don’t exist. The only reason people hire f

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    Chopped Onions

    How true !

    Until a couple of years ago we had an original HK -home grown Cantonese Amah who worked for us for almost 20 years, after which she finally retired at age of about 50 to look after her grandchildren. She did 5 x 4 hours / week ( = basically 5 x afternoons) She was an ace at cooking, 1000% trustworthy and reliable. But later her short- sight failed and she refused to wear reading glasses, so we therefore needed a Filipina part-time Amah to do the “deep” cleaning that the Cantonese Amah missed.

    In her last years our Cantonese local Amah was earning HK$7K/ month for 20 hours / week = HK$14K for a 40 hour week ( and she was being head-hunted by my wife’s ‘friends’ at an even higher salary )

    Most Filipinas work 60 – 80 hours / week for less than HK$4K/ month

    It’s an unfair world , as far as race and Amahs are concerned

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