‘No discrimination’: top Hong Kong official defends compulsory COVID-19 testing for foreign domestic workers

Published (HKT): 2021.05.03 05:27

A top Hong Kong official said there was “no discrimination on the basis of race or identity” in ordering some 370,000 foreign domestic workers to take COVID-19 tests, though the policy has come under fire from Philippine government representatives.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung wrote on Sunday that the mandatory testing order was meant to protect foreign domestic workers, as well as their employers’ families and friends. Such an order was not discriminatory as it had previously been applied to other high-risk professions, Cheung wrote in his blog.

On Friday, the Hong Kong government ordered the mandatory tests after a worker from the Philippines was found to be infected with a mutated coronavirus strain.

“We can find the source of the mutated strain through testing and sever the transmission chain. We hope foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong and their employers can understand the government’s motives,” Cheung wrote.

The government was studying the possibility of requiring foreign domestic workers to get vaccinated as a condition for renewing their contract, he added.

Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada earlier opposed compulsory vaccination, saying such a policy should not single out foreign domestic workers and instead apply equally to all non-resident workers.

His comments were echoed by the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who said over the weekend that the policy smacks of discrimination.

“It is a good thing Hong Kong is vaccinating domestic workers but our consul is right. Though the effect is good and saving, still marking them out smacks of discrimination and if it is a special favor, it is unfair to other nationalities,” Locsin wrote on Twitter.

“Hong Kong can do better.”

Foreign domestic worker groups staged small-scale protests in Central, with some carrying placards reading “we are not virus carriers” and “end discrimination.” A COVID-19 testing station at the nearby Chater Road pedestrian precinct saw a queue of around 500 people on Sunday afternoon.

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