Last Friday, the government requested every single foreign domestic helper to do a mandatory COVID-19 test by May 9. Consequently, a flood of maids had to stand in long queues at testing centers in various districts all over Hong Kong in the scarce consecutive holidays on the Labor Day and Sunday at the expense of their meagre private time. Law Chi-kwong, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, announced that the authorities are planning to put the item “inoculated with acknowledged vaccine” on the list for issuing renewed work visas, saying that “I don’t think this is a harsh demand as a condition for getting a work visa; they can choose not to work in Hong Kong”. The new move made by the Hong Kong government and the remarks made by Law have backfired as organizations of foreign domestic helpers and diplomats of their motherlands voiced their indignation at it. The Philippines’ Foreign Minister queried if maids forced to have a vaccination by the Hong Kong government implies discrimination against them. The Consul General of the Philippines also believes that if a mandatory vaccination is forced through, it should be applied to all expats in Hong Kong, rather than levelled at domestic maids.
Not only have the motherlands of the foreign domestic helpers shown concern for it, but also a friend of mine who is a diplomat stationed in Hong Kong from Mexico has uploaded a post querying: “If a Mexican sojourning in Hong Kong gets infected, is it necessary for all Mexicans in Hong Kong to take a mandatory COVID-19 test? What about work and student visas? Is getting a jab a prerequisite?” It can be seen that the reckless move made by the Hong Kong government has not only impacted the foreign domestic helpers and their motherlands, but also it has brought misgivings to other community members of foreign nationalities living in Hong Kong. As the government of the city known as an “international metropolis” is not considerate by all measures towards the community members of foreign nationalities under the influence of the measure, the halo of Hong Kong as a global city fading away happens for a reason.
Favoring one more than another in defiance of science
Will an infected foreign domestic helper living in Tung Chung make another helper living in Sai Kung a high-risk person? When did a virus spread by airborne transmission at close range turn into one directed at a certain community? As the majority of the population in Tung Chung are not required to take a COVID-19 test and get a jab, why are all maids on Hong Kong island, in Kowloon and the New Territories asked to take a mandatory test and get inoculated? This measure for the “fight against the plague” put forward by the government not only goes against the current medical knowledge we have, but also is blatantly discriminative. That a foreign domestic helper contracted is reckoned the same as all foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong at high risk and that the populaces in Europe and the US discriminate against peoples of Asian descent for the worsening pandemic conditions are cut from the same cloth. Even so, no country has thus far got only the Chinese people in its territories in the cross hairs, forcing them to get tested for COVID-19 and vaccinated. Harping on more often than not about the western countries discriminating against China, the Hong Kong government does not mind, however, launching a discriminative measure in the event.
Admittedly, the Hong Kong government officials might tell Hong Kong people that foreign domestic helpers are high-risk people because they get together in groups regularly on holidays, hence being vulnerable to infection. However, well-off madams in town also love to get together frequently. Among the “dance group” that caused a new outbreak of COVID-19 in the city at the end of last year, there were quite a number of people from the beau monde. The government only asked those who had been to the venues concerned to get tested. Were all well-off madams in town requested to take a mandatory test and jab? The Hong Kong government has not yet grasped the fact that its measures against the disease are not welcomed by the citizens, not because of them being “smeared” by the media or the citizens who do not believe in science, but they are very often not consistent, favoring one more than another in defiance of science. Worse still, political considerations are prioritized over everything, so that the citizens would not trust what the government does is to fight the coronavirus epidemic wholeheartedly, and even query whether there is a conspiracy behind. Subsequently, the populace protest about the official anti-epidemic measures in the form of passive resistance, which makes the infection even more difficult to alleviate.
The measure levelled at foreign domestic helpers this time is a perfect demonstration of how “mighty and combative” Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is. Why are foreign domestic helpers high-risk? Why are well-off madams that often get together not treated in the same way? It is because to Lam and all the high-ranking government officials, foreign domestic helpers are just a group of underprivileged people with “no stake in the society”. Impecunious and powerless, they are unguarded against anything the Hong Kong government wants to do to them. In their eyes, the Philippines and Indonesia are just tiny countries. So, no matter how loud their protestations are, they carry no weight, and their feelings need not be taken care of.
(Lam Hoi, journalist)
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