Jason’s Reflections on Migration in Hong Kong

Reflections 27 Jun 2016

Jason FongReflections on Migration and Migrant Workers’ Situation in Hong Kong

Jason Fong, APMM Intern


True to its work, the Asia Pacific Missions for Migrants, or APMM has a heavy focus on grassroots movement and its ideology shows in the workplace as well. For us interns, the APMM office will be the focal point of a two-way discussion and learning process, a place where free speaking is encouraged and ideas or stories are shared. Often, we have our stories of our experiences with migration to share.

In my case, I am a Hong Kong person born in Canada. My parents felt the need to leave Hong Kong during its transfer of sovereignty back to China, as I was conceived but not born yet. The handover to China triggered a migration tide of Hong Kong people given the right of abode by the British Government elsewhere. Like many local Chinese, my parents were pessimistic on the future of Hong Kong when transferring from a liberal to communist rule, hence my origins in Canada. My parents stayed a further 3 years in Canada in order to grant me Canadian citizenship before the family moved back as a whole to resume our education in Hong Kong. Later in my years, I began to understand the situation of migration in this globalised economy. Though what my parents experienced cannot be considered ‘forced migration’, the freedom to migrate has become a luxury, and a main stratifying force between individuals and countries.

Foreign domestic workers are the closest, vulnerability population that any household will come close to. Though we can argue that we, and our families do not breach the rights of foreign domestic workers, the situation is full of glaring flaws if foreign domestic workers are dependent on ‘luck’ to have found a nice employer, compared to one that may be willing to violate the rights of foreign domestic workers with minimal percussions. Over the course of my lifetime in Hong Kong, my family has had 3 Filipino helpers up to now. Prior to this, I felt oblivious to the situation of foreign domestic workers and never questioned what their rights were, and what situation their families were in. Upon introspection spurred on by joining APMM, I could recall a volatile relationship between my family’s employers, or my parents and the domestic workers, where I felt a drastic change in between the second and current domestic helper working here. Whereas the current one has been working in different households between our family for a very long time, the second was subject to ostracisation and heated, but often one-sided arguments due to an uneasy relationship with us. Being bounded to the household is a unique condition of work, and is subject to a variety of responses, with the best being able to consider the foreign domestic worker as part of the family, to all sorts of abuse. I can definitely see the comparisons of foreign domestic workers to the modern day slave, especially when backed up with a variety of new case studies. These foreign domestic workers are put at risk, because amongst the strong demand to migrant-service economy, not all employers would have had the experience and share this responsibility of being a good ‘boss’.

Of course, the solution is more strongly related to the empowerment of migrant workers, through education, legal support, and collective action to change the laws and policies that enforce domestic work being detached from labour standards. Therein, we have this opportunity from APMM to examine holistic picture by being able to work alongside and mingle with the associations and organisations that will push for these changes. Amongst the stories of migrant workers who have undergone the precarious experiences of forced migration to support their families, I am particularly interested in how these migrant and labour union organisations are changing the life of new foreign domestic workers and smoothening out the vulnerabilities to abuse that were inherent in these forced migrations.

I am grateful for this opportunity given to us interns working in APMM, and I hope to be able to utilise what we will have learnt by the end of the internship to contribute relevant and thought-provoking research for migrant workers and Hong Kong locals alike to read about, and understand their responsibilities and situations better to reinforce Hong Kong as an open and cosmopolitan city.

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