Hannah’s Reflections on Migrant Workers in HK

Reflections 29 Jun 2016

HannahREFLECTION

by Qiu Zihang Hannah (APMM Intern)

*** English text follows Chinese

 

移民和旅行的區別在於,旅行者可以選擇他們想遊覽的名勝,想品嘗的美食來度過假期;移民者則需要謀生。而對於香港的移民者而言,香港遠不止中環的豪華寫字樓和銅鑼灣的購物天堂。

我一直為能夠來到香港學習感到幸運, 它給我了與過去十八年完全不同的生活經歷。兩年的香港生活不完全是學習,還包括適應在香港的生活。我不得不說,初來香港的我的生活,可以用一團糟來形容。

但是我不會把自己和移民勞工相提並論,畢竟我並不能算是真正的移民,並且對於我來說,來到香港更多的是學術上的選擇而不是生活所迫。我並不需要擔心我的個人權利被損害,我有父母和家庭在背後做支撐。對於移民勞工來說,在香港的生活就像沒有退路的孤軍奮戰,而在個人權利受到傷害的談判中,有限的籌碼讓他們往往無法真正維護自己。

在我第一次和勞工親身接觸之前,我對他們的態度充滿同情。但是他們展現給我的狀態讓我非常驚訝。他們很開心,充滿活力,對生活樂觀。或者,更確切地說,他們努力地在生活中保持樂觀。我看到長長的匯款回家的隊伍,街邊的廉價市場,我也看到節日慶祝的歌舞,和朋友情侶之間平凡的愛。

我記得有人和我說過,“不要抱怨被生活所逼迫——剛開始,你也是被迫著來到這世上,畢竟在生下你之前,沒有人問過你的意見。”這些話在我看到那些移民勞工時一遍遍地在我腦子裡回響。生活對誰都不容易,香港人經歷的困頓和快樂,他們一樣經歷。比較和同情都沒有意義,因為每一個社會群體都有自己生活的方式,也正是如此才構成社會的多樣性。而我們所要做的,是創造一個更加寬容的社會,讓他們能夠自由生活。

移民勞工從某種程度上是被社會邊緣化的一個群體,像我一樣對他們有誤解的一定不在少數。作為勉強可以被稱為移民的人,我經歷過文化衝擊,但是平心而論,我需要在意的往往都是生活的雞毛蒜皮而不是生計。但是對移民勞工而言,生計是永遠懸在頭頂的陰影,而任何改變和失去的後果,他們都無法承受。在我看來,對於移民勞工來說,社會所要做的是創造一個自由,寬容,開放的社會環境。移民勞工是活生生的人,他們知道如何奮鬥,如何生活地更好,他們有自己的喜怒哀樂,只要我們給他們機會去表達,並擁有更多的耐心。

 

Understanding the differences between migration and travel is necessary for seeing the whole picture of our society. Tourists can choose to do what they like during several days’ travel and see it as the break from their usual lives. They can choose to go home and never come again if they feel uncomfortable on their trip. However, migrants have to live their lives in Hong Kong without so many choices. Hong Kong is far more than office buildings in Central and shopping malls in Causeway Bay.

I always feel lucky to have the opportunity to come to Hong Kong to study, which has given me totally different life experiences compared to my 18 years in Mainland China. These two years in Hong Kong have not just been about studying, since I have also needed to adjust to the environment here. I remember the first six months I spent in Hong Kong, which was really not a pleasant experience. Although it helped me grow up a lot, I also faced many difficulties. I was afraid of speaking Mandarin because of the locals’ unfriendly attitude toward Mainlanders in 2014 during Occupy Central, but I could not understand Cantonese, and English is not always useful here. I did not know where to get off the minibus and did not understand the “common laws” of daily life. My life was a mess at that time.

But I would not consider myself the same as migrant workers, not only because I am not really a foreign migrant, but also because my coming to Hong Kong was a free choice rather than a forced decision. I do not need to worry about my rights being infringed, since at least my university gives me legal and proper status in Hong Kong (I hope they do not regret it). I also have my parents and family for support, both spiritual and material. For migrant workers, life in Hong Kong is like fighting for life without any freedom of movement, and they usually have to bear financial pressure from family members. The position of migrant workers means they may have no choice but to bear unfair treatment and violations of their human rights.

That is the attitude I had before the first time I made contact with migrants personally, mostly sympathy and pity. But what they showed me was really a surprise—they are happy, full of energy and optimistic about life. Or, rather, they are trying to make themselves happy in this foreign region. I saw the long queue for sending remittances, cheap markets on the street, as well as dancing and singing in celebratory festivals, shared happiness between friends and couples.

I remember the words once said to me: “Don’t complain that you are always forced to do something—you were forced into this world from the beginning, since no one asked for your opinion before your mother gave birth to you.” And these words impressed me again when I saw migrant workers gathering and having fun together. Life is not easy for anyone, and migrant workers face challenges and pleasures just as local Hong Kong people do. It is pointless to make comparisons and feel pity for these hard-working workers, because every social group leads their own lives, experiencing the happiness and sorrow that comes to all the diverse members of society. What we should do is to fight for a more tolerant society so that they can earn their lives here freely.

Migrant workers are a group that is to some extent marginalized by society, and a misunderstanding of them such as I had is definitely not a single case. As a migrant, I have experienced culture shock as a new arrival, but to be honest, what I needed to care about were trivial details, not serious life pressure. For migrant workers, life pressure is the shadow they always see when they look up. They cannot bear the consequences of loss and change. In my opinion, the crucial thing for society in terms of migrant workers is to create a free, tolerant and open environment in which they can fight for their rights and livelihoods. Migrant workers are human beings who know how to work hard and build better lives for themselves. We can see they have happiness and sorrow as other people do, as long as we give them the chance to express themselves, and as long as we look upon them with patience.

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