Thursday, 5 April 2012

Comments from UFDWR's Eni Lestari

In Hong Kong, a Setback for Domestic-Worker Rights

When Eni Lestari, an Indonesian domestic worker, heard about a ruling that might allow some 300,000 temporary foreign workers to live in Hong Kong permanently, she was thrilled. She likened it to the day in 2000 when she escaped from an abusive employer and learned at a shelter that she would not be deported. “I felt hope,” Eni, 37, said of both occasions. “I didn’t know there was a legal system that helps.”

But for Eni and tens of thousands of other foreign domestic workers living in this semiautonomous Chinese territory, that hope is fading fast — and so is their faith in the legal system. On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal overturned the ruling. Unlike other foreigners, these workers cannot apply for permanent residency after seven years. The lower court found that unconstitutional, but the Court of Appeal ruled otherwise, saying it was for the state to decide the extent to which permanent residency is granted to foreigners. ”Hong Kong apparently is under the rule of law and a place where you can pursue equality,” said Doris Lee, a representative of worker-support group Open Door. “Yet the government routinely excludes these women.”

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