Monthly Archives: August 2011

(Not Quite) In the News… Protest in Central on Sunday August 21, 2011

I’ve complained in the past that I did not feel the Hong Kong people were vocal enough about their identity and sovereignty, especially with China constantly encroaching, but on Sunday I came across this:

I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about, especially with most of the signage and protest cries in Chinese, but once I crossed the street, I stayed a few minutes to try to ascertain.  Maybe this photo does a better job:

Basically, many of the slogans say, “Reject the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”  Unfortunately, I was running late for a cocktail making class, and didn’t have the time to observe this peaceful protest further to get any better of an understanding.  I did notice it carried on for quite a while, and included traditional Chinese drummers and some traditional Chinese music playing from speakers, in addition to bohorn-powered slogan chanting. 

Today I tried to find something in the news on it, and only saw something about a journalists’ protest earlier in the week, concerning the restrictions on media when China’s Li Keqiang paid a visit.

I also would say that it’s a pity that the bulk of this protesting was in Chinese (both the signs and the spoken slogans), since I’m sure it’s something worth putting non-Chinese understanding expats (and even tourists) on notice about.

So this leads me to think two things: 1) I’ve underestimated the passion of Hong Kong people, and 2) I wonder if news of this sort of protest tends to get silenced?

Anyone with leads, please comment here – PLEASE!


Follow-up on the Trasgendered Marriage Case

This post is incredibly late, since the decision was published in (I think) October 2010, and I received a copy of Hong Kong Lawyer, the Law Society’s monthly journal, featuring an article on the outcome back in February!  For those of you who don’t know what I’m yammering about, I posted on this piece of Hong Kong legal news here and here and here.

At any rate, I hope you will take a look at the Hong Kong Lawyer article.  Two law professors from the Chinese U. take pains to explain all the arguments presented for denying W, the post-operative male to female transsexual, her right to marry her male partner.

As these authors sum it up, the Court felt it was unable to rule in favor of W because it would in a sense be opening the floodgates to same-sex marriage (which those of us from the U.S. already realize causes enough headaches).  In support of its homophobia, the Court basically held that sex is determined only at birth, and rejected any of the precedent that evaluated sex on any amalgam of data, or research in support of the transgender process. 

To make matters worse (in my opinion), the Court said it was only interpreting the Marriage Ordinance to define marriage as a “heteronormative concept” of one woman and one man uniting for life excluding all others and fulfilling the Christian purposes of marriage, namely procreation and mutual support.

Obviously many aspects of this is a bit laughable in light of the state of modern marriage’s reality, and as discussed in the article, with recent recognition of prenuptial agreements and no-fault divorce in Hong Kong, it seems like weak reasoning.  And yet that is what it is!

So, like with many U.S. states, the matter of marriage involving anything other than one and one woman, likely needs to be legislated.

“Big Lawyer” and “Regular-Sized Lawyer”

Being an American, the whole barrister-solicitor concept took (still is taking) some time to grasp.  Below are some general characteristics of barristers and solicitors:

  •  Barristers have rights of audience (or the ability to speak in court), solicitors do not (with some exceptions);
  • Only solicitors may “solicit” clients, and then hire counsel (barristers) to do all the talking should the case get to that stage, but barristers cannot;
  • Barristers (except in the UK for the time being) cannot join law firms, but instead share overhead costs with other barristers in chambers;
  • Barristers wear wigs made of horse hair; solicitors (thankfully) do not!

Really I’d say both barristers and solicitors are lawyers, just different.  They both are generally required to take the PCLL in Hong Kong, and study the same subjects, take the same exams, but when it comes to the trainee period, barristers only do one year, whereas solicitors do two.  Either may convert to the other at any time, but barristers need not take another exam, just organize motion papers for admission as a solicitor, whereas solicitors need to take another year!  That’s rather counter-intuitive!

AND here’s the winner — in Hong Kong, a  a barrister is called  “大律師”, or “big lawyer”, whereas a solicitor is known as a “律師”, or what I’d like to say “regular-sized lawyer”!

More on Filipino Migrant Workers (Part 2)

Last post I wrote about an interesting article I’d happen across in The Economist on Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, and also alluded to a subsequent post further on the issue.  That same week I had been browsing The Standard (one of HK’s free papers), and came across an interesting article about 4 Filipinos bringing their case to court as to why denial of their right to permanent residency in Hong Kong, despite their longtime residence in Hong Kong, is unconstitutional.

As an expat in HK, you quickly learn what it takes to become a “permanent resident” of Hong Kong — this is what really separates the cookies from the crumbs, so to speak, as there are those expats who are relative newbies (from first-years to what may seem like a long term of 4 – 6 years), those hanging on and preparing to hit the lucky 7, and then the real old-timers (plenty of decades-old expats).  Both the Basic Law (HK’s constitution, in essence) and the Immigration Ordinance set forth the terms of permanent residence in Hong Kong:  “Persons not of Chinese nationality who have entered Hong Kong with valid travel documents, have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years and have taken Hong Kong as their place of permanent residence before or after the establishment of the HKSAR” shall be declared permanent residents of the city.

Somehow, domestic workers, no matter how many decades they have lawfully lived in Hong Kong, are excluded from this rule, because they are not “ordinarily resided in Hong Kong.”  Indeed paragraph 6 of schedule 1 of the Immigration Ordinance explicitly excludes domestic workers as a category. 

The first of these cases, filed by Evangeline Vallejos, who has been in Hong Kong since 1986, is scheduled to be heard in the High Court on August 22.  And last weekend, a rally was held in support of Vallejos and her petition, in the hopes of striking what (to me) is on its face, a direct violation of the Basic Law in Hong Kong.

These cases were actually filed last December, and in the interim, many have urged against these petitioners and asserted that by granting foreign domestic workers, who have a special visa with strict limitations (is Hong Kong the only nation that has a separate line at immigration for foreign domestic workers?), would increase the population by over half a million by virtue of the present 292,000 foreign domestic workers bringing their families over, increase unemployment from 3.5 to 10%, cause a serious strain to public services as well as driving costs of public services by as much as HK$25 billion, and heaven forbid, be entitled to the newly established minimum wage of HK$28 an hour!  Here’s an example of such fear mongering.

I have to admit that despite my strong instinct that this separate treatment of foreign domestic workers is not only unconstitutional, but discriminatory, I do wonder what the impact of granting foreign domestic workers permanent residency would do to Hong Kong. 

As things stand, foreign domestic workers, who are primarily South East Asian, have it rough all throughout the region.  And yet they do it because their home economies failed them first.

Also, Hong Kong apparently treats its foreign domestic workers better than its nearby nations of Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Japan!  Domestic workers in Hong Kong are guaranteed one day off a week, paid sick leave, maternity leave, statutory public holidays, allowed right to form union and earn at least HK$480 (~US$ 62) a month.  Contrast with in Malaysia, where monthly wages are about HK$130 a month, or not even US$17!

As an expat in Hong Kong, I think about how lucky I am to be here too – but should I be treated so differently?  I will definitely keep an eye out on updates to these cases.

And by the way, this is most certainly not the first time this issue has come up in the Hong Kong legal system.  I wonder how the precedents discussed in this article will come into play here.


More on Filipino Migrant Workers (Part 1)

Just on the tails of my recent discovery that a good proportion of the Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong possess college degrees, I read an interesting article about Filipino migrant works in Saudi Arabia of all places in the Economist.  Not only is it an interesting read about the Filipino outer-economy beyond its nation’s borders, but it also discusses many of the xenophobic fears and reactions other nations, that ironically depend on the foreign workers, possess.

What I found especially interesting about this article were a few facts stated therein.  First, that 1 in 10 Filipinos work abroad!  That’s HUGE!  This doesn’t state what professions they occupy, nor does it enlighten us on who will or will not eventually emigrate (Part 2 on the subject concerns this), but that so many citizens of a single nation should look overseas for work is startling, to say the least.

Second, the Philippines recognizes this massive overseas population, and has its own governmental agency to handle related matters, called the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency.  And further, it appears the Philippines government does its share to encourage overseas work, thereby alleviating its domestic burden of creating a better wage for those at home (the article mentions a Philippines proposal that the Saudis pay a minimum monthly wage of $400 versus the more typical $250).

The article goes onto explain the Saudi rejection of such proposal, with the primary motivation being its own domestic unemployment.  But if you look at some of the comments, some very critical commenters, who appear to be from the Middle East, tout that no Saudi has the will to do manual labor jobs Filipinos currently occupy.

How should this global world economy work?  As nations like Saudi Arabia, and certainly Hong Kong, rely on and benefit from domestic helpers from the Philippines, and Filipinos likewise depend heavily on these overseas jobs to survive back in their home country, what are each nation’s obligations to its citizens?  Should the Filipino government be more focused on the humane treatment of its citizens overseas, or trying to figure out how to keep them gainfully employed at home?  Should foreign nations maintain a minimum standard for all workers, or only extent this to domestic ones?  Does cheap foreign labor really hurt a domestic economy? What are the priorities here?

More on some of these issues in Part 2.