Brown people problem set to continue, if possible

It is hard to see why there is such a fuss – even abroad – over last Friday’s court ruling about overseas domestic helpers and permanent residency in Hong Kong. The court essentially said that the wording of the immigration law on this subject infringed the wording of the Basic Law’s reference to it. But the judge pretty much added that the city, as controller of its own immigration policy, was nonetheless free to grant or refuse permanent residency to those who do not automatically qualify (non-Chinese). Discrimination against one particular group is unconstitutional, but discretion is not. 

The Hong Kong government could use the court’s decision as an opportunity to regularize the current Permanent Residency system, establishing clear guidelines not based on condition of servitude or other euphemisms for skin colour. For example, the rules could require applicants of working age to show a minimum monthly HK$20,000 level of income for seven years; that would easily ensure that no Southeast Asian domestic helper would ever qualify, while wholesome white professionals still would. The worst-case scenario is that the Immigration Department would have to print a few more application forms. Instead, the government seems intent on turning an easy-to-solve problem (assuming that cheerful, industrious brown people with permanent residency are a problem) into a threat to civilization.

Part of the reason is that our self-styled leaders, with their rock-bottom opinion poll ratings, can only pander to a bit of populist demagoguery. But even if they had spines, they would find their hands tied in this case. 

The anti-maids movement is being stirred up as part of a United Front campaign to smear the Civic Party as wasters of public money (the by-election ‘referendum’ and Zhuhai Bridge legal delay) and manipulators of old women (Zhuhai Bridge) as well as smarmy, elitist, know-it-all, gwailo-loving bananas who want to fill the city with foreign welfare scroungers. This is partly a tactic to reduce the CP’s vote at the November District elections, but it is also a classic United Front move, seizing an opportunity to make the pro-Beijing camp more mainstream and acceptable, and its foes more extreme, in the eyes of the people of Hong Kong. The government has to play along. 

With the world watching, we can only hope that our senior policymakers undergo an uncharacteristic outbreak of wisdom and calm. The courts can deliver any judgement they like, but the Immigration Department has all the discretionary powers it needs to stop us from being flooded by all the brown people who, er, live here. 

The anti-maid protestors might help the United Front in its Leninist hearts-and-minds project, but they are not a pretty sight in the international media. Not that they don’t have a point, if you leave the racist-tinged welfare scare stories to one side. According to one, maids who speak good English and are skilled in the service sector may take away jobs from low-paid workers. An economist analyzing the local labour market from this comment might indeed conclude that we could stimulate growth by deporting recent Mainland immigrants and replacing them with Filipinos. Everyone, even on the bottom rungs of society, wants someone to look down on, and it’s harder to do if they have Permanent ID Cards. In the early 20th-Century Deep South, blacks were lynched for being literate, so I suppose our local underclass’s dwindling sense of self-worth could be worse. 

My own Filipino helper, who has been in Hong Kong for over 30 years, recalls with amusement getting an invitation from the Immigration Department in the mid-to-late 80s to apply for right of abode after her first seven years here. There must be a few out there who, unlike her, sent the form in. The world carried on turning. 

On a brighter note, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam is replacing Henry Tang as Chief Secretary. This could just be for an interim period, with a less unpopular, less weasel-like former civil servant taking over when Henry takes over in the middle of next year. The original script seems to have cast the relatively nice and smart Carrie Lam, Secretary for Covering the Place with Concrete, in the role. But Stephen has years to go before retirement, unless a remote distant island beckons in mid-2012 for understandable self-imposed exile. A clueless Henry-simpering Stephen double act would be a joy to behold – so buffoonish that a community on the verge of bursting into tears in despair would end up collapsing in laughter.

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17 Responses to Brown people problem set to continue, if possible

  1. Kath says:

    Just taking note with the first part of you article, it is normal policy for a gov to ask a person (regardless of race, age) to demonstrate an ability to support themselves (ie 20,000/month) so they wouldn’t be a drain on society (ie end up on welfare or other gov or charity assistance), when they are applying for residency or right od abode. This is not discrimination.

    I agree that there are a lot of unreasonable people out there trying to block this policy because of their bigotry however, the income thing is not one of them.

  2. maugrim says:

    Wholesome white professionals do have to meet visa conditions before they are allowed to work and are more likely to pay tax, quite a bit of it, and represent little or no demands on HK’s social services. Likewise the Phillippino engineers, flight attendants and managers who work here not on domestic helper visas.

    I like Phillippinos, but seriously, their homeland is a byword for laziness and corruption, its only the females who keep the place together. Happy, industrious brown faces? For some Phillos I know who arent one of the many Phillippino professionals here in HK, if they got off their arses and dealt with the everyday drudgery of having a full time job like whitey does they might be able to achieve something beyond $3,000 a month.

  3. Iffy says:

    Kath, did you actually read this or just skim it and pick out the words that caught your imagination?

    Perfect stuff today Hemmers.

  4. Stephen says:

    It’s possible that if we were not on the cusp of a district council “election” (needs qualifying as there are still many appointed seats) and a CE “selection” next year that the volume on this would have been reduced alot.

    However this is an opportunity to give the Civic’s a kicking and where this may end up is the Pro-democracy block losing their one third veto of the next government proposals on the next legislative council elections after 2012.

    Therefore we can look forward to many more years of Functional Constituencies coupled with the Horse and Weasel show.

    This is a tired old repeat of 1998 and shows Hong Kong at its worse especially when we get the forthcoming NPC overruling of our courts over what is essentially a HK matter.

  5. jing says:

    If Regina Ip has her way, the Government will get spectacular global coverage by running to Beijing – and Beijing may give HKG a snub as they did over the last Manila/HKG fiasco.

    Hong Kong – Asia’s World City Unless You Are Filipina

    At least there won’t be room on the signage for the horrible airbrushed dragon logo anymore.

  6. darovia says:

    I have noticed that the tedious API about HKG being a non-discriminatory society is no longer being played on RTHK. Does this mean they know what the court of TOTALLY final appeal is going to say? Ok rhetorical question.

    I have always been disturbed about the ‘discretionary’ powers of the Immigration Department. A spotty 18 yr old can refuse you entry into HK for being too brown or too Indian and get you back on the next plane to the place you came from. The cops can’t do that – and there does not seem to be an equivalent to the PCC to help people complian about them.

  7. Real Tax Payer says:

    Yes, let’s get rid of the dragon logo , and at the same time ditch the “Asia’s World City” crap

    Unless we add a rider to the ” Asia’s World City*”

    *as long as you are yellow/ white Asians : brown Asians not accepted

  8. Joe Blow says:

    What is it about liberal, slightly left-leaning white expats (but with the fat salaries that they enjoy to the full) who always have to be oh so caring, and oh-ing and ah-ing about fairness and those ‘poor foreign helpers’, who are not only discriminated against (despite their cheerful attitude, you know) but who are also “denied their rights”, and who then start to complain about all that is bad about Hong Kong ?

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Joe Blow

    Hope you are not including me in the description !


    If so, please go back to friday’s Hemlock and scroll down to the very last comment from me

  10. Vile says:

    Well, what is it? I’m waiting for the punchline.

  11. Joe Blow says:

    punchline: I can’t help but think that, apart from the hypocrisy, the patronizing attitude and the misguided sentiment, most of those championing the cause of the little brown sisters of the poor are either married to one or they are dipping their wiener in Conchita’s honeypot on a tit-for-tat basis (me sahib, you Conchita, bunga bunga, okay, no problem). It happens more often than you would believe, in Mid-Levels.

  12. Sahib says:

    That was a pretty poor effort, Joe. Maybe some of us are tired of having to employ lazy, complacent and poorly schooled HKers and would welcome a bit more competition in the labour market.

  13. JackShit says:

    Let the Phili’s in! Yeah bros/Sis…

    But what most of us forget, is that we all could spend 10 years or more living in the Philipines, but none of us regardless of where we came from, are ever able to become permanent residents/nationals, even after marrying a philipina of whatever sex. I see their point of view, but let them sort out their house first.

    A small point, but HK is way ahead in treating foreign nationals well that want to settle in HK, than foreign nationals wanting to settle in the Philipines.
    Not perfect, but it is all about glass houses! Owning property there is another issue, they need to sort out! Buying property in HK, starting a business, etc is a non issue in HK.

  14. Chris Maden says:

    Funny how quickly the comments drift away from Hemlock’s point – the political manipulation of a court verdict – and into racist generalizations (“employ lazy, complacent and poorly schooled HKers”, “most of those championing the cause… are married to one,” and, as to “the everyday drudgery of having a full time job like whitey does” – er, has the writer ever tried the everyday drudgery of cleaning of a house, living in the broom cupboard, etc?)

  15. Vile says:

    Changing tack is a time-honoured way of avoiding an irrefutable argument.

  16. maugrim says:

    What other nation would willingly let in thousands of low paid workers into their labour market without any thought of the consequences? This is not just about Phillippinos per se. In fact why stop there? Why not extend such largesse to the poor of Vietnam or any other neighbouring country? Look at the problems the UK has with mass migration from Eastern Europe, in particular demand placed upon social services. yes, it is discriminatory not to allow domestic helpers right of abode, but its also foolish to think that there will be no conseqences.

  17. Cleo says:

    Look, it doesn’t matter if the PI government has a reputation for corruption or that their Catholic leader implicitly sanctions their ongoing population explosion by not only disapproving of abortion but of BIRTH CONTROL.

    Why doesn’t it matter to the character of Filipinos with right of abode in HK? Because Filipinos in America with citizenship are perfectly okay. They’re good looking, integrated, popular, educated and successful in their careers. They’re GOOD Americans. They don’t have youth gangs, they don’t have a bad reputation and they OFFEND no one UNLIKE the Hong Kongers who are rude without fear of penalty or retaliation.

    To me, it is all about losing that continuation of Hong Kong flavor that has tears and bitterness but immense pride from coming down from China before, during, after but all as a result of the Japanese invasion and retaining that original style and personality and CLASSIC moral character – yes, in rude snarky Hong Kong lies the refined modest Chinese Cantonese style of living your life.

    But on the plus side, half a million Filipinos will definitely distract from the irritation of having smug Japanese expats in Hong Kong. I am definitely not a fan of those expats who are perfectly capable of becoming their own local entity thanks to shell companies simply hiring as many interested Japanese as possible. Japanese are looking at their options post Fukushima meltdown and there is nothing unattractive enough about Hong Kong to dissuade them. No Paris Syndrome, as it were. In which case, I am thrilled at the thought of half a million Filipinos of all ages in all walks of life.

    So be it.

    I’d rather have what Filipinos and Indians have become as immigrants in more comfortable countries than their homelands than have Japanese given their record of Japanese overseas.

    Hong Kong and the Philippines both suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese. The Japanese slashed young Hong Kong nurses to death in the hospital for the wounded British who witnessed the horror before being imprisoned as POWs.

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