Hong Kong to be flooded with people already here, part 2

The great Brown Peril scare continues as the Hong Kong government submits an affidavit to the courts ahead of the judicial review over foreign domestic helpers’ claim for permanent residency. Give Filipino maids who have lived here for seven or more years the right of abode, the statement claims, and you could end up with 400,000 extra people flooding the city, half of them demanding welfare. This is wild guesswork (though it’s not a bad rough summary of the impact of Mainland immigration over the last 15 years); maybe officials have given up caring about their own credibility.

Could it be that the government, aided by its vote-mongering supporters in the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment etc of HK, is stirring up racism and alarm as a way of diverting people’s attention from the abysmal failure of nearly everything else it does? This would, in fairness, bring it into line with just about every other government on the planet at some time or another. Or is it wetting itself about a theoretical inundation of dark-skinned hordes because blind panic is its default reaction to almost anything?

It would be interesting to know what has made the DAB so interested in this issue. As the local front of the Chinese Communist Party, it follows orders rather than sets agendas. It pushes the interests of the local less-educated working class, insofar as these are compatible with its higher cause, and stresses nationalism and disdain for the sort of cosmopolitanism common among the pro-democracy middle class. But it has also been quite successful at cultivating ethic minority (poor/non-white non-Chinese) voters in districts like Tsimshatsui – for example, pushing for school places for Nepalese and Pakistani kids just a few days ago.

One possible explanation for the government-DAB scaremongering is that the case offers an opportunity for another ‘interpretation’ of the Basic Law, by which Beijing hands down an expedient new meaning that disregards the wording of the mini-constitution. But this sounds like a conspiracy theory; while the idea of eroding Western-style rule of law as an end in itself excites some pro-communist elements in Hong Kong, it discomforts the bureaucracy and business community, and arouses hostility among the media and public opinion.

The idea that Beijing is getting agitated about the prospect of an influx of non-ethnic Chinese into one rich, southern, largely autonomous city also sounds a bit far-fetched. Not that the Central People’s Government is in favour of diluting Han populations, but with train disasters and rebellious colonies in Tibet and Xinjiang to deal with, it must come low down their list of priorities.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Frenetic Filipino Freak-out Fright of 2011 simply comes down to racism. An Asia Sentinel article, apparently adapted from a Philip Bowring column in the South China Morning Post over the weekend, highlights Hong Kong’s particular hang-up about darker-skinned Asians. Examples include a continued official alert against travel to the Philippines for no reason, and horror at the very idea of hiring badly needed nurses from that country.

Colonialism probably deserves some of the blame here. Many decades ago, the Chinese were second-class citizens in Hong Kong, and – as in the Mainland – there is still something of an inferiority complex. The elite feel inadequate without Jockey Club membership, appointment as Justice of the Peace or other idiotic British baubles. The underclass, like the white trash in the UK or the US, need someone to look down on, and Third World maids are ideal. The prospect of legitimizing these people and letting them compete in the workplace provokes hostility because of insecurity. Filipinos might have more than just an economic edge on local counterparts. The real fear is not that maids’ relatives would come over and claim welfare, but that their relatives would come over waving fancy nursing degrees and other credentials, leaving Hong Kong’s dropouts and rejects in the dust. Racial superiority meets humiliating truth.

The last place we would expect a breath of sanity is the Hong Kong edition of China Daily, but we do more or less find it courtesy of an op-ed piece by Lingnan University’s Ho Lok-sang. He essentially proposes a calm and colour-blind approach to the possibility that maids may qualify for permanent status. The government has considerable discretion over who gets right of abode and over which relatives can join them, he says, and it should not be too hard to devise guidelines and quotas that allow us to absorb reasonable numbers of productive and useful people from the pool of maids who have been here for seven years or more. Voila – problem over.

(All this assumes that the courts will find in the maids’ favour. There seems to be little reason to suppose they will.)

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20 Responses to Hong Kong to be flooded with people already here, part 2

  1. Joe Blow says:

    Marcellita gets PR status.
    Her husband Sam and little Boyet, Dong-Dong, Nancy, Rolando and Imelda soon fly over to settle with Mummy.
    Two months after arrival Marcellita is ‘with child’ again. Sam promises to get a job soon.
    Na-Na in Pasig sells her shack and joins the family to look after the kids.

    Score, so far: 9

    Fast forward, 20 years: miraculously, the clan has doubled in size.

    400,000 ?

    You wish !

  2. Diogenes the Cynic says:

    Well, on the bright side, there will be more legit hoes on sale ^_^

  3. David Duke says:

    I don’t see what’s wrong with a special employment visa with restrictive conditions to fill a specific labour need, as long as the conditions are not unduly harsh. Overall, one could say the current DH visa regime fits that bill.

    Far less justifiable is the exclusion of qualified professionals, wherever they come from, who meet genuine market needs, including doctors, nurses, lawyers and other protected classes.

    I think the real objection to the possible Filipina invasion is that the little elves and their ilk are just too damn cheerful despite the fact that they do not own their own flat and are not members of the Jockey Club. Intolerable!

  4. Mike says:

    Not allowing helpers permanent residency after 7 years in the city has got to conflict with some of the anti-discrimination ordinances currently standing. Call a spade a spade this entire “OMG they’re gonna inundate us with their cast-offs and family” become what it is, blatant racism. But then again, blatant racism isn’t unusual for Asia’s world city.

  5. Big Al says:

    Indeed, where would Asia’s World City be with an influx of cheerful, hardworking, talented people with good English and brown skin?

    Just think of the opportunties for expansion of the skin whitening industry, given that the local yellow skinned population has now whitened itself to pale blue.

    Just think of the benefits to the local expat population of having Makati re-create itself in a “Little Manilla” suburb of Wanchai – no more tiresome hour-long flights to the Philippines and government can keep up the Black Travel Alert for eternity.

    Surely these economic and social benefits will offset any increase in social welfare payments?

  6. Big Al says:

    And speaking of Black Travel Alerts, how are these defined? The whole of the Philippines gets one because eight people tragically died on a bus. So, if only four had died, would that be a Red Travel Alert? If only two had died, would that be an Amber Travel Alert?

    So how come China doesn’t get a Black Travel Alert when forty people die on a train? By rights, government should impose five Black Travel Alerts on China. And ten on Norway …

  7. David Duke says:

    Er, it’s commonsensical that restrictive work visas can legally proscribe permanent residency to their holders.

    The sovereign right to control borders and restrict residency trumps woolly legalistic concepts like anti-discrimination every time.

    If you don’t believe me, just ask the National People’s Congress.

  8. Gerald says:

    “The government has considerable discretion over who gets right of abode and over which relatives can join them” True – but the Govt would have to acknowledge the right of ‘immediate relatives’ e.g. children, dependant adults e.g. siblings, spouses, parents etc to join them and these cannot, to judge by the size of many Filipino families, be small numbers. I’m sure the DAB are playing this up as a political ploy but there’s no denying that this is a vexed issue.

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    Surely the economics of supporting a large number of dependent family members in HK on a DH salary would prohibit large families from emigrating here en masse once the “mother” = bread-winner got PR status.

    Surely there must be some limit on the number of dependents a newly ( or even long-standing) immigrant PR citizen can bring to live in HK and go onto social welfare from the day of arrival .

    Or is there no such limit ?

    Another thought : have you ever noticed how the longer the name of a political party which claims to be pro-democracy the less it really believes in democracy? The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the classic example , which is neither democratic, nor a republic, and certainly not FOR the people of Korea ( anyway most of its people are either locked up in prisons when they are not starving to death) . Now what is the DAB’s full name ? “The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong”
    Mmmmmmm guess we can guess how many of those titles are pretty much the opposite of what they purport to mean

  10. stanley gibbons says:


    Vexed my a*se. David Duke (post above yours) has hit the nail on the head. We can all go home now (or not).

  11. Bean Counter says:

    @Joe Blow: As ImmD puts it, “An application for admission of a dependant may be favourably considered if … the sponsor is able to support the dependant’s living at a standard well above the subsistence level and provide him/her with suitable accommodation in the HKSAR.”

    In the wildly unlikely event they win their court case, the talented tenth of ex-maids who move up into secretarial, teaching, or other professional jobs might get to bring their husband and kids over. The others who end up as $28/hr waitresses and CitySuper clerks — not so likely.

    This debate would be more amusing if we hired blonde, blue-eyed maids from Moldova and Ukraine instead.

  12. Vile says:

    The whole thing kind of breaks down at the point when government is actually expected to monitor or enforce this sort of thing. Or any sort of thing, really. They’re great at legislating (in quantity, if not quality), but if they can’t enforce it by smashing up a little old lady’s mobile roast chestnut cart, they don’t bother.

    Not sure why the Filipinas bother, either. Surely the fluent-English-speaking-and-slightly-darker-skinned-than-local staff of Subways and similar outlets haven’t managed to convince immigration that there are no locals capable of filling those posts and have thus managed to get a normal working visa? What about those chaps selling copy watches in TST? And then there is the Lands Department policy of discouraging illegal squatter developments by putting up somewhat desperate-sounding signs about the danger of landslides (but not actually evicting the residents and knocking the huts down).

    If you’re not keen on certain laws in Hong Kong, the best policy is just to ignore them.

  13. Mike Hunt says:

    @Vile: the dark-skinned waitresses are second-generation, and many of them are Nepali, who are actually born here as the descendants of the Gurkha battalion. And some of them have inter-married of course: either with Chinese or with expats (think ‘English teacher’).

  14. Vile says:

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think the ones who talk to each other in Tagalog are Nepalese.

  15. Real Tax Payer says:

    Bean Counter : it seems you answered my question when you quoted Immigration Dept : “An application for admission of a dependant may be favourably considered if … the sponsor is able to support the dependant’s living at a standard well above the subsistence level and provide him/her with suitable accommodation in the HKSAR.”

    I do happen to know a handful of Filipinos and even Filipinas who have lived and worked in HK for decades, have PR status, and hold highly paid professional jobs ( but in no such cases have they ever brought over an army of their dependents ) . From time to time I also bump into Filipinas working in restaurants, pizza joints, and just normal boozy bars. In all cases that I could establish, they were not moonlighting DHs , but were married to HK PR citizens, and so entitled to work here , same as the Mainland immigrant wife of a HK PR.

  16. David Duke says:

    RTP is exactly right: all those Filipina and Nepalese service workerd are/were married to HK Permanent Residents. It’s amazing what you can learn when you talk to people.

  17. Vile says:

    Well, I stand corrected. Always morally and evolutionarily uplifting to diversify the genepool. I still say the best policy* if one takes issue with government and/or legislation is to ignore them and carry on as normal. They always go away eventually, possibly after pinning up a notice of some sort in your neighbourhood.

    I’m not sure how government’s South Asian immigration phobia squares with Donald’s goal of reaching a population of at least 10 million so we can begin to rival Mexico City?

    *(This does not apply to anti-government protests, naturally.)

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