Middle class spared need to wash own dishes

To no-one’s great surprise, the Court of Final Appeal rejects foreign domestic helpers’ claim to right of abode in Hong Kong. This is a story with several very distinct angles.

There’s the rule of law angle. If the CFA hadn’t ruled against the Filipino maids, the government would almost certainly have asked the rubber-stamp Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to ‘interpret’ the relevant part of the Basic Law. In practice, this means amending the law through the back door purely for the sake of political expediency. Such an intrusion of Mainland-style rule of man damages Hong Kong’s rule of law; ultimately, if pragmatism demands an injustice, it is preferable to do it on this side of the border and preserve at least some integrity for the local legal system.

There’s an interesting cui bono angle – who benefits? This ruling keeps foreign domestic helpers in middle-class Hong Kong’s homes, doing the cooking, cleaning and child-minding. This frees up middle-class wives to work; they need to, because otherwise the families can’t pay the mortgage. They can’t pay the mortgage because the government has rigged the housing market to make homes ridiculously overpriced. Take the maids away, and many double-income households would become single-income, inevitably meaning less wealth being available to flow from the middle-class workforce to the half-dozen families running the local property-developer cartel. Sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it’s just joining the dots.

There’s a subliminal nationalism angle. Most of the helpers concerned are from the Philippines. The Philippines is a joke country; it is the Asian nation China can most easily bully, but it is also the one most likely to mishandle or overreact to intimidation. From Beijing’s point of view, it is appropriate that Hong Kong keeps Filipinos in their place. To Manila, this case could be a reminder that the most demeaning treatment Filipinos receive is from their own country’s incompetent leadership, which leaves them with no option but to migrate – but it probably won’t.

There’s the principles vs populism angle. The government was desperate to get this result because of overwhelming public opposition to allowing Filipino maids’ kids into Hong Kong (as with Mainland mothers, subject to a separate court case). This is the same government that constantly tells us that we have a pressing demographic crisis that can only be solved through a boost in the number of children – and that we shouldn’t discriminate against brown people and Mainlanders.

And that leads to a cultural and racial angle, summed up by the New York Times, which asks if Hong Kong will embrace a more multi-ethnic future. As with legal systems and age demographics, this case highlights Hong Kong’s values schizophrenia. On the one hand, the city is supposed to be part of the People’s Republic of China, with the national anthem on TV and smiling patriotic schoolchildren – sons and daughters of the dragon – waving red flags to greet visiting Chinese astronauts and Olympians. On the other hand, the city fancies itself as a diverse melting pot like New York or London, attracting the brightest and the best from around the world, as indeed it must if it is to maintain the region’s biggest clusters of financial, legal, technical and other skills. In practice, much of Han Hong Kong is insular, culturally solidly Chinese and fears external competition, while a smaller part of the ethnic Chinese populace are cosmopolitan and, often, Western-educated. The first group are in Beijing’s eyes surely the ‘politically correct’ population; the second group plus some non-Chinese are what keeps the place ticking. It is a contradiction Hong Kong government officials can’t resolve, so they wing it.

As, perhaps, does the Court of Final Appeal.

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42 Responses to Middle class spared need to wash own dishes

  1. Joe Blow says:

    ….the city fancies itself as a diverse melting pot like New York or London, attracting the brightest and the best from around the world

    Yes, and that does not include domestic helpers.

  2. Real Tax Payer says:

    Hemlock : that is a clinically accurate summary of HK status quo re amah laborers here.

    I don’t necessarily agree it’s the “right thing”, but the CFA has declared it is the “right thing” So fait accompli

  3. Sojourner says:

    An excellent post, Hemmers … with the exception towards the end of the egregious and rather shocking aside that it is the Western-educated Chinese and the expats who keep Hong Kong “ticking”. Really?

    It’s on these (fortunately rare) occasions that you do sound a tad like RTP.

  4. It’s pure racism of course and the Hong Kong judiciary kowtowing to the threat of the Kangaroo Court known as the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

    The judges could have dismissed the application of the Government to refer the matter and thus removed the threat. But most Hong Kong judges are solid Government men. Some never practiced as barristers in Hong Kong.

    The judges ought to be ashamed of themselves.

    Residency and citizenry are the acid tests of racism. I wonder what would happen if we told all the Hong Kong restaurant owners and their overstaying illegal entry staff and relatives in Britain that they weren’t ethnically British and were being sent home.

    Hong Kong people are the second biggest group of foreign property buyers in Britain. What if we did a Samoa or a Tonga or a Dubai and said they can rent but can’t own?

  5. Failed Alchemist says:

    What befuddles us is what was it like prior to 1997? Was the British laxed and exceptionally generous to give rights of abode to all & sundry? From memory, getting into HK was stringent based on qualification, displacement of a local for that position etc. Domestic helpers surely were not requesting rights of abode at that time and even if they had, would have been flatly refused.

    From this article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_abode_issue,_Hong_Kong

    even Britain tighten their immigration laws to stop hoards from the Asian & African colonies flooding the UK. This meaning that each country has the sovereign right to decide their immigration laws.

    HK has done a decent job to allow everybody to come and enjoy the economic pie as well as to contribute to it, even in supporting households. There is also no disdain nor prejudice as domestic helpers meet in public areas on days off to find comaraderie among their own.

    However, people like Eman Villaneuva persist to call HKer’s who oppose this as racist. As pointed out, how can one be a racist against one’s own race – mainland babies? First, if HK is a society of racist, we should surely need to leave and go back where we feel comfortable instead of reaping from the very same racist society.

    Secondly, we doubt that we can go as blue collar workers in the Phillipines and expect to be permanent residents after 7 years, can we?

    In case some think that these comments are disparging, just look around and you will find that many Filipinos who circumvent the courts in finding permanent jobs and rights of abode. They are surely welcome and blend in with the rest as long as they know how to pass the immigration’s gauntlet.

  6. Stephen says:

    Whilst we all could see the knockout punch coming from the back of the hall it shows HK at its racist worse.

    Simply put – Daniel Domingo arrives in HK in 1985, to work, receives no right to stay permanently. Jonny Banker arrives in 2006, to work, and does. Then there is the repugnant second act to this. Mr and Mrs J Banker have a baby in HK and baby gets permanent residency. Mr and Mrs Hu have a baby in HK and, at the moment, baby get permanent residency but, not for much longer. Just for the sake of argument what if Mr Hu sits opposite Mr Banker in the workplace?

    Forget all the side shows of milk powder shortages, mainland mother swamping local hospitals, the pathetically low local birth rates (0.7), all of which are solvable by administrative measures that can be undertaken by the Hong Kong Government, we decide to go the racist route.

    As a parent, a tough one to explain to the little one or perhaps as one of your other regular contributors puts it I should just f**k off?

  7. Sojourner says:

    Failed Alchemist — If you are so purblind and bereft of fundamental moral decency that you fail to recognise blatant racism and injustice when it’s staring you in the face, there is no hope for you.

  8. stanley gibbons says:

    Johnny (come lately) Banker is allowed to be here only because he has specific skills not available locally which allow him to be granted a preferred visa, but has no guarantee of 7 year residency upfront. He is taking a punt if he expects to remain long enough to become a permanent resident. Domingo is an opportunist who is only filling a short term (2 year) contract at the functionary bottom rung of employment, doing a job noone else will do for the money, and he well and clearly knows upfront that there will be no right of abode, and no guarantee of continued employment beyond 2 years.
    In this knowledge, both choose to come to HK for respective personal reasons, but otherwise they are apples and oranges.

  9. Oh, just to be be clear too:

    People who have servants have no moral self-esteem.

    In Hong Kong, they are just slave owners.

    Shame on you!

  10. Failed Alchemist says:

    Sojourner I had a very strange encounter. Met an Indian gentleman (turban and all – not trying to be racist but will explain) and he proudly showed me his HK ID with 3 star and all. 3 star?? Then he showed me his home return pass. (He didn’t look Chinese :=) To my envy and also feeling proud of this guy since I can’t even get a home return pass. But so what? Like your name suggest, we are all sojourners, we give but we also take from HK.

    My point is that prejudice is prevalent in every society. Singapore does not allow contract workers to stay but we don’t call them racist. As shown in the article, Britain has its laws but we don’t call it racist.

    If you ask the ordinary local wanker in Singapore why the Sarong Party girls drools over the Mat Salleh rather than the local lads, would that be racist or racial preferences? The unfortunate part is we live in an inbalanced world but immigration policies are another matter including for Mainlanders.

    Therefore, from transition from Colony to Basic Rights, there was a lost of translation to make sure what the law says…

    But the question has not been answered, will Phillipines grant us citizenship after 7 years of blue collar work (if we are allowed to find one in the first place)?

  11. Joe Blow says:

    I have the solution: Vilma from Davao marries Johnny NET Teacher from Leeds. Once Johnnie gets his PR, she gets dependent visa and instead of working as DH she can work a real job as a LKF waitress. Eventually she will also get a UK passport. If she is really lucky, like “Jackpot lucky”, she may end up in a council flat in Lancaster.

  12. Failed Alchemist says:

    Stephen, I think some of us take offense particularly if Mr. Villaneuva keeps shouting in our faces that we are racist instead of addressing the matter where its most pertinent – the law, immigration policies and population policies which is the perogrative of any state.

    In your example, most states will allow the child to be the domicile of the country if both or one parent is a permanent resident. Its a simple equation and straight to the point. Unfortunately after 1997 and under The Duck, things start to get murky. Then he kicked the can down the road.

    Please put aside Filipinos and Westerners in the equation. Mainlanders who do not have permanent ID’s but get landing rights, give birth and immediately granted rights of abode to the children. Yes, the US practices this but geographically, the country is a big, big place…

    Already we have own impoverish citizens in places like Sheung Shui & Tin Shui Wai to contend for school places but now the demographics are thrown off… if there was proper planning, then absoption would have been much easier. We can go on blah, blah… The point being made is that the law needs a relook in view of HK’ situation unless we blantantly make the law to target a certain group racially. This is where Mr. Villaneuva best place his energies, to help construct a more even handed immigration policy, that shouting down everybody as racist because it was not favorable.

  13. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Sojourner

    I did say “I don’t necessarily agree”, which means in Brit-speak I totally disagree.

    Our Amah is Indonesian. She is a treasure. We pay her over market rate for her salary and and also pay extra for her to have own own separate place to live, thus giving her her own private life. We are funding her home purchase back home and more besides. A few more of people like her as HK PRs would benefit us all.

    But sad to say, that’s not the general case . and reality – as with HK’s return to China ( see yesterday’s BL) – has come home with a vengeance. That’s realpolitik HK-style .

    Very sad to say.

  14. Jennifer Eagleton says:

    Having FDH is really the HK government “outsourcing” its childcare, elderly care, carwashing care, dog-walking care, and household cleaning. The government should have better childcare and elderly services – not everyone can afford a FDH.

    Why can’t locals do these things?

  15. colonelkurtz says:

    A reasonable number of “local” locals do seem a bit uncomfortable with foreigners other than North Asians (ie Koreans and Japanese) who are deemed the same as HKers westerners who, years of colonialism and Western cultural dominance (now fading) has brainwashed them at some subliminal level to think of as wonderful. There’s also a grasping middle class dimension to this debate, as in “How am I going to find a maid (I can’t bring myself to use the euphemism foreign domestic helper) this cheaply if they can get other jobs?”. But I find grasping middle class concerns a world wide phenomenon.

    But this debate is so often polarised by the division between this and, more endemic to some westerners, canonisation of maids, especially Filippino ones.

    Who’s actually read the CFA judgement and seen if it’s intellectually defensible rather than just brandishing their prejudices pro-or-anti maid?

    HK is very Sino-centric. It’s not as multi-cultural as the US, Canada, Australia. It probably never will be. 98+% of HK are Chinese.

    But this place, is at some levels, amazingly open to immigration. Just hang in 7 years and you’ve got it. I’m a westerner, married to a local, made an effort to learn Cantonese and I find an amazingly low level of prejudice and a high degree of acceptance among locals, not just towards me but towards people of any nationality, race or culture, often from the most demonised local grass-roots people who speak nearly no English too.

    There’s no local racist group for starters. Nor anything like the racial tensions that sometimes erupt in the UK or Australia or many European nations.

    Let those whose culture is without racism, cast the first stone.

  16. PCC says:

    Every jurisdiction has the right and responsibility to impose immigration controls.

    Low-wage foreign workers who compete against local wage earners are not welcome in Hong Kong.

    FDHs are welcome in Hong Kong as long as they don’t compete with local workers. That explains the conditions of their visas: domestic work that locals won’t do and no PR because then they would be able to undercut the wages (and possibly outcompete) local workers.

    I do not think racism is the basis of the regulations or the ruling.

  17. pcatbar says:

    PCC is spot on. HK’s work visa regime is relatively open with skilled workers from all countries able to gain employment and after 7 years PR. The FDH situation is not racist but it is a local manual worker wage market protection policy. Germany had run something similar for 40 years with Turkish migrant labour, (not limited to DH). This angst about discrimination against a group is pure cant. There is no human trafficking here and nothing to be ashamed of unless you subscribe to the extreme egalitarian view that we should all be on the same level of income/wealth. That has been tried in other places and times including China under Mao and is still supposed to apply in Cuba and North Korea. How is it that so many of our well educated progressive citizens have failed to notice how well those social experiments fared!

  18. Jennifer Eagleton says:

    “I do not think racism is the basis of the regulations or the ruling”, yeh, right!

    HK might be “Sino-centric”, so why the “Asia’s World City” slogan then? It’s a joke.

    Although most “Westerners” in HK do not have discrimination against them (I do hear stories from “non-white” groups); there are instances where HK people do not want to use the toilet after a white person – I’ve seen it!

  19. Maria NM says:

    I know this is not the point of the article but to say the Philippines is a joke of a country is offensive. Are all third world countries that export labor ‘joke countries’? What’s wrong with seeking greener pastures? How different is it for an American executive to want to stay and work in HK because there are less/no job opportunities in the US? How condescending and spoken by someone who probably comes from a wealthy country. ‘Nuff said.

  20. Mongkok Mzungu says:

    @RTP – I am a little surprised that you don’t tell the FDH who are unhappy with their legal status/conditions of stay in Hong Kong to just ‘get the f#ck out.’ It was after all only yesterday that you proposed what Mitt Romney would term ‘self-deportation’ (in the direction of Singapore or elsewhere that will have them I gather now) to fellow Chinese citizens that dare to strive for a change in the political system in this country (oh darn, I did it again, I meant territory of course).

  21. Chimp says:

    Interesting point about the lack of a National Front/HKIP type party. Probably a niche there for someone to fill.

    Hong Kong is, legally speaking, fairly parochial in lots of ways. The FDH issue is clearly one of them. I don’t think it’s fair to go from “the law is an ass” to “the people are, likewise, asses” as it’s a very small circle who make and uphold those laws.

    Anecdotal evidence of racism on the part of individuals, likewise, is not necessarily indicative of a widely held belief. I generally regard HK as offering some almost unique freedoms, the most important of which is the right to mind ones own business. Very refreshing.

  22. maugrim says:

    Maria NM. What can I say about the Phils that their own residents don’t say themselves? The fact that someone would come to HK and clean middle class toilets among other duties in preference to what lies in their home country, speaks volumes. Hemlock in my opinion, put it quite mildly.

  23. Property Developer says:

    FA, “There is also no disdain nor prejudice” because… the brown-skinned people are allowed to gather in Central every Sunday. There is a huge amount of racism, pure and simple, in HK.

    Because in China (the original borders, before the acquisition of the huge empire) virtually everybody is of the same race, it goes very deep indeed. The very concept of someone who is Chinese by birth and upbringing but not by race is denied by most people, yet the inverse (“ABC” or “BBC”) is a commonplace.

  24. Sojourner says:

    @ Failed Alchemist

    @ RTP

    I may not agree with your views but I appreciate the fact you both responded to my personal criticisms in a mature and constructive way.

  25. EDB says:

    I don’t know, it’s all fine to say every country (or territory in this case) has the right to decide who they will or won’t let in. Problem is they already have let them in. This woman has lived and worked here for 17 years. So some people here genuinely believe that just because she has brown skin and isn’t a banker then she shouldn’t have any residency rights even after such a long time?

    Of course the elephant in the room here is the glaring irony, some might say outright hypocrisy, that a city renowned around the world as a source of large numbers of often initially quite poor immigrants (ever been to Vancouver or Sydney or any Chinatown in almost any city around the world?) would be so cold hearted (racist?) as to not even allow a tiny number of people to gain the same rights they received in Canada or Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, etc., here. Believe me most Canadians were not pleased at all by the waves of HKers flooding their country, who were commonly held to be low class individuals from an inferior society and had a reputation for behaving just like the so called ‘locusts’ HKers so love to despise, prior to the handover and many would have loved to have implemented a similar policy on them (especially with regards to the astronaut families: mummy and daddy dumping granny and the kids in Canada and then coming back to work in HK leaving Canadian taxpayers to pick up the tab for young Genius Chan’s education and granny’s medical bills).

    I also find it quite pathetic that HKers with their supposedly legendary ‘go get it’ attitude and unequaled work ethic would actually feel threatened by what would likely only be a handful of largely middle-aged maids. The dependent scare mongering is clearly a red herring since, as far as I understand, PR wouldn’t have granted any rights on that issue anyways.

  26. Chimp says:

    @EDB “I also find it quite pathetic that HKers with their supposedly legendary ‘go get it’ attitude and unequaled work ethic would actually feel threatened by what would likely only be a handful of largely middle-aged maids.”

    As previously noted, the HK government != HK. I rather think that is what all the fuss is about, old boy.

  27. darovia says:

    The composition of the CFA bench in this case (and, of course, its arguments) would indicate that this is a legal and not a race-based decision that has worked out well from a political expediency point of view. I have every sympathy for the FDHs but the law is very clear in excluding them specifically (I won’t bore everybody with the sub-section). The bigger question now would be whether such an exclusion is a breach of basic human rights and perhaps that is the next stop for lawyers. Here in Manila the decision has been seen as one made for political expediency (something done all the time in the Philppines). I’m sure that one or two lawmakers here will froth about it but most politicians won’t give a f***. They represent themselves and not the poor – as has been often said, “the Philppines is not a poor country, it is a rich country with a lot of poor people in it.” (just look at the booming stock market). Maria NM trust me, it’s a joke; the 10Million Pinoys who work outside the Philippines have seen the joke – the rest are either too rich or too poor to care.

  28. colonelkurtz says:

    I’ve still not heard anyone who says that they’ve actually read the court judgement and criticise the grounds relied upon. Maybe they are rubbish. But read them before making the claim that it was decided because of racism. Instead, all I see is more of the stupid offhand prejudgements that some people claim to be opposed to.

  29. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ All ( if I dare say so – and I sometimes wish Hemlock would come back into these post-blog debates) …. WHAT a day , and WHAT a cross-section of views !

    Having lived more than half my life here and married into the Chinese community ( and speaking Chinese myself) I can honestly say I believe there is no “nasty” racism in HK. Sure there is joke racism (“the gweilos only eat sweet and sour pork when the tourists aren’t looking and the Chinese only eat sweet and sour pork when the gweilos aren’t looking”) Then there’s the “racial” ladder which I once explained a long time ago (I think the Aussies came out bottom for some reason – or was it the Chiu Chow?).

    But there’s nothing like the shear nasty racism that I see back in some parts of the the UK, and which I’m sure is equally prevalent in the USA and most other “civilized” nations who have a significant immigrant population. Indeed, that nasty racism is the stuff of films, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King.

    We don’t have suicide bombers blowing up Sunni Muslims. We don’t have immigrant ghettos or a Bronx. We don’t have a Gaza strip. We certainly don’t have a Bosnia or a taliban. Thank God.

    But what we do have here is a demographic problem: TOO many people want to live in HK because it’s such a great place (warts, People -Power-Chan and all) – certainly far far more fun than sterile Singapore and Uncle Harry Lee’s all-seeing eye .

    But we simply have limited space. Fact. And our tycoon-brown-nosing govt has gone way overboard and created a huge rich/poor divide. So the typical HK-er has to work 24/7 – both husband and wife – just to earn the right to own their own rabbit hutch by the time they are at retirement age.


    So we – like almost every other country in the world – have created immigration policies to protect local jobs. Fact.

    It’s not racism. It’s reality.

    I don’t like it, but as long as I choose to live here ( and I do so freely choose) I must accept the bad with the good.

    Am I basically right in this overall analysis or totally, utterly wrong?

  30. Dream Bear says:

    Read the judgment before you go into rant mode about racism.

  31. fumier says:

    I have read the whole judgement, which includes an exhaustive review of the judicial decisions on the meaning of “ordinary residence”, and I believe it stands up to the closest scrutiny.

  32. Regislea says:

    Let me declare an interest/position: I have Permanent Residency, no longer (as of February this year) live in HK, and am married to a former (Indonesian) domestic helper.

    I don’t think the decision is racist. I do think that some of the ill-informed and emotional statements leading up to the case’s various hearings were racist.

    Many were also stupid since not based on facts – see post above on subject of dependents flocking here – and made by people who, as community leaders – should know better. But that’s HK politics.

    As another post says, it would have shown a degree of compassion for someone who has been here for a large portion of their adult life to have some security – but that’s nothing to do with the specific legal decision.

    The bigger issue to me is the way that helpers are treated – in many cases very poorly. And the reason is quite simple – the 14 day rule effectively removes any chance of the helper being able to leave their employment without incurring heavy financial penalties. And the Immigration Dept – while very good in many respects – are absolutely rigid about it.

    While that rule remains in place, it is a licence for any employer to mistreat and/or underpay their helper.

  33. redchinamorningpost says:

    I certainly will not scream that the court decision is racism — but it is a nevertheless deep-seated form of institutional racism. And neither legal arguments (written by the privileged for the privileged) nor trying to rationalise it on economic grounds changes that.

    It is simply an injustice. And the fact that the Philippines is a “joke” country and that the ruling class in Manila doesn’t fundamentally care about the rights of its overseas workers is also neither here nor there.

    Alex Lo, whom I don’t always agree with, makes a very good point in his column today that foreign domestic helpers and their low wages have been put in place to make us pay for services that should have been provided by the state.

    Lo is right when he refers to the consequences as a form of ‘semi-apartheid’. It is not as if the wages the domestic helpers are paid are even market-driven — it is simply colonial exploitation of the economically weak by the economically strong. And yes, it IS racist and sexist too. I don’t use these words lightly or simply for scoring ideological points. I think it is a rather cool appraisal of what is actually happening in fact.

    Is it simply to be brushed aside that the domestic helpers in Hong Kong are female and from two of the more impoverished i.e. “inferior” countries in the region — the Philippines and Indonesia?

    If there must be cheap labour employed as domestic helpers, why doesn’t the government look north of the border instead? There remains an abundance of cheap labour there despite the economic reforms of the past 30 years. But I suspect that employing Chinese as helpers and paying them absurdly low wages (even with all the usual bleatings about how they don’t pay rent and the money goes a long way back home) would be simply less palatable for the general public due in no small part to their ethnicity.

    I think race has a lot to do with this case. And it was race too that made the ruling a fait accompli right from the start.

  34. Failed Alchemist says:

    Obviously the emotional appeal to the poor women’s situation is commendable like the granny that was flogged for 10 years for money laundering. Law is never made based on emotions but precedence and the good of society. Therefore, in cases of France & Germany that was welcoming to migrants are now seeing things differently due to socio-political factors. Their laws will evolve.

    But having said this, its left to the judges how to mete our decisions and judgements, while not making a new precedence and in the interest of public with a heart. The letter vs the spirit of the law.

    As pointed out by RCMP, Alex Lo makes a pertinent point. I may add, the way some employers treat their helpers, its insitutionalize racism & salvery. We should argue that FDH should be allowed to work like any expat worker, paid min. wages and allowed to live out. After 7 years, if within reason and not taxing the state, they be granted PR. But then, that would set off a chain of events like Alex expresses. Not allowing women to seek a career without hindrance and the support of the govt plus employers is sexism.

    However, this would wean HKer’s off this over reliance of sometimes grateful help but also abuse of that help.

    But funnily, the SCMP also reports that NZ barrs foreigners esp Chinese from the sex trade although having a same workplace rights. To end my day, are the Kiwis racist? Hahahaha.

  35. Anon says:

    @ Joe Blow: totally off topic but I think you’re a bit off on the financial situation for most NETs in HK.

    For the purposes of salary and benefits, NETs, same as their local colleagues, are considered civil servants and are on the civil service pay scale (with annual and sometimes bi-yearly salary increases as well as periodic adjustments to reflect the cost of living increases). They also receive various monthly allowances, MPF contributions, private health insurance subsidies, end of contract gratuities (typically 15% of their total earnings throughout the contract period), flight reimbursements, which are also constantly being adjusted to reflect market rates, inflation, ‘morale’, etc. Quite a few NETs will also tutor students outside of school. Cash in hand.

    Taken all together the salary and perks can amount to a fairly significant amount of money especially if the NET is qualified (as in licensed to teach in state schools in their home country) and experienced. It’s not unheard of for NETs to own several properties both here in HK and back home. I personally know a couple (both NETs, around 10 years service) who own a flat here in HK, one in Singapore, and a property in the south of France. Not too bad at all especially considering the lengthy holidays (CNY, Christmas, Easter, summer) they have to enjoy that house in France.

    So Johnnie NET if he’s even halfway smart with his money and is able to stick it out for any length of time he’ll likely be able to do a bit better than the council flat in your scenario. Hey, who knows, he may even end up as your landlord someday.

  36. The Regulator says:

    A requirement of Eligibilty for Permanent Residency in Hong Kong is to pay tax however little but Domestic Helpers are exempted from doing so

  37. Cerebos says:

    Pace all… why must we always compare ourselves to somewhere else? We’re a relatively new polity – for once we could be the ones breaking new ground, forging a new moral baseline. Having had over 3 months of existential discussions on the topic with my helper (15 years here, married to another FDH and proud spawner of a 4yo), it’s clear to me if she had the leeway she would undoubtedly have made an unequivocably positive contribution to the economy. Make the qualification period longer for FDH’s but don’t exclude them altogether.

    On the flip side – I am the proud adoptive father of a wonderful ‘Han’, HK born girl. How is it that she gets my birth nationalities (UK & FR) automatically but if I want an HKSAR passport it’s an utter no-no.

    Why can’t we be the first to break new ground? What’s stopping us?

  38. smog says:

    @The Regulator,

    That’s bollocks – DHs have to pay tax just like anyone else if they earn enough (which would be $10,000 per month at the moment).

  39. fabrice says:

    Wonderful article. You can’t really assimilate this legislative decision to racism for two reaons

    – Hong Kong is a sovereign state and immigration laws are always a sensitive issue as people do move to wealthy places when there is any.
    – The working conditions of 7/11 Hong Kong born staff are terrible. Like it or not it’s like that here.

    Remember that the one country-two systems shape the present and future of Hong Kong for property, economic and legislative development.

  40. So “Johnny (come lately) Banker is allowed to be here only because he has specific skills not available locally which allow him to be granted a preferred visa”. Like the skills Nick Leeson brought to Singapore?

  41. I read the ruling and it’s a complete shambles legally. Racist? Well it makes every effort to make sure this ruling applies ONLY to non-Chinese, which is why Rimsky the Red and CY were so happy with it.

    The courts had to specifically ignore two legal precedents brought forth by the defense in order to produce the legal expediency, which saves their face from being overturned by the NPC Standing Committee. One was a deliberate ignoring the actual precedent set in Ex Parte Shah and the other in a local tax case, where the visa status was irrelevant to “ordinarily resident”. In other words, there is now one standard for “ordinarily resident” in HK when the government sues you and another when you sue the government. This is what the Court of Final Appeal refers to as “context”.

    The fact that the Basic Law is so Chinese this and Chinese that and so many of the HK elite at the time of the Handover had foreign passports or were 3rd/4th generation stateless HKers made it necessary to add the non-citizen 2nd class Permanent Resident status based upon being “ordinarily resident for 7 years”. The government can make any rules it wants on immigration as long as they abide by the Basic Law, which doesn’t limit non-HK Passport holders to Functional Constituencies or say anything about creating a baggage-class non-citizen group. Instead we get the CFA ruling that because the immigration law set them up as a baggage-class non-citizen group, then it’s clear that the Basic Law should have had a section which said “ordinarily resident but not baggage-class indentured servants”.

    But now everyone can get back together and sing that ode to HK’s rule of law and how it’s so much better than the mainland, because the justices beat the NPC SC to writing the desired ruling.

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