Reflections of Hanna Wong (APMM intern)

Reflections 14 Jun 2016

Hanna WongMigrants are too vulnerable to help themselves in the new country: that why we are present

Reflections by Hanna Wong


The phenomenon of migration is prevalent around the globe nowadays. The migrants do not only confine to people from Asia Pacific region, but also the vulnerable from some richer countries for various reasons. But what the countires have in common is that there should be some persistent problems in the country that citizens there can no long stand that in relation to the migration trend. To me, I first got a general picture of migration from my parents, who were the immigrants from Mainland China now residing in Hong Kong for 20 years.

Both my parents were born in Mainland in the Fujian Province around the 60s. However, their family statuses were totally different. My father came from a richer family and yet, he was deprived of the family’ care as he was left alone in Mainland just after he was born. Owing to the failure of applying for the citizenship in Singapore for my father, my grandma and grandpa just moved back in Singapore for a better career prospect and left my father to be raised by my great-aunt. Unfortunately, he did not receive any due respect, or worse still, was abused physically and verbally by my great-aunt’s family every day. After 18 years of torture, by a fortunate coincidence, he migrated to Hong Kong to start a new page of life.

But his plight did not end here, there was a lot for him to endure. Unlike the present Hong Kong society advocating individualism, men in the past decades have to shoulder most, if not all, the expenses when they wanted to date a girl in Hong Kong in the 70s to 90s. For a new immigrant without any work experience or strong education background, what my father could do was to be a waiter in restaurant to make both ends meet. When he recalled the memories in that period of time, he just mentioned that he felt alienated from society, to the extent that he could hardly find a girlfriend when he was approaching the mid 20s. It is conceivable as the expenditure in Hong Kong was too high for him to afford buying even a bunch of flower to girls. Therefore, he went back to Mainland to find his spouse, who is my mother now.

However, life was still tough as it always took a long time for newcomers to be accustomed to an unfamiliar place. In our case, my father has resorted to seeking help from his fellows from Fujian. Fortunately, availing from the financial aids from one of my fathers’ fellows, he ran a small shop selling local food in support of our living and the academic expenses of me and my two sisters. Even though we are not rich, we are now leading a sustainable life and my parents’ “immigrant” identities have already faded out with time.

I believe my parents have a better fortune amongst all migrants. They eventually emerged from helplessness and poverty with the assistance from their friends. However, that is not the case for most migrants in the world. Take the domestic workers for instance, the challenges they have to face are even more rigorous than those of the new immigrants from Mainland since they have to deal with the vast disparity in living style. Sometimes, this kind of incompatibility may result in prejudice against the migrants, or even tragedies. Erwiana’s case is a perfect illustration of predicaments the immigrants may have to endure. Indeed, Erwiana’s case was a misfortune, and yet it has successfully aroused the locals’ awareness to the plight of the foreign domestic workers here and the government has faced more squarely in the issue. Sadly, most HongKongers are gifted at forgetting, they would soon shift their attention to other news lest there are some people adhered to strive for their rights. And I believe that is why NGOs like APMM is imperative to exist without which they are fated to be exploited and tortured in an exotic environment.

In addition to the assistance from NGOs, the creation of an extensive social network is also indispensable to domestic workers. I believe my father’s case has demonstrated the profound importance of social support. That is the reason why lots of the domestic workers would gather in Victoria Park or elsewhere on Sunday to share their sorrows and joy in compensation to their emptiness in heart. That said, no one would want to leave their family and hometown behind. They are usually forced to leave their beloved to sustain their life or their families’ life. The victim, including my father, was compelled to leave Fujian since his living environment could no longer be tolerated due to the unjust treatment from his guardian. This is also applied to the domestic workers mostly from Philippines and Indonesia where the corruption in national government in terms of the high unemployment rate there has forced the locals to migrate to other countries.

Despite the differing propellants adding fuel to the migration problem across the world, as said, the common point all the sending countries share is the unbearable living conditions for the residents there. As we cannot choose where we were born in, migration perhaps would be the only alternative people can opt for in order to change their life. Possibly my father was only a rare case as his migration decision was not attributable to the social dyfunction. While under most circumstances, social dyfunction in the county does constitute the major part of the migration trend. Some governments, like the Philiipines, even regard it as a means to stabilize their economy. To curb the migration tendency, governments should change their mentality and it is what many migrant groups are trying to accomplish, like we in the APMM. Despite my temprary stay in the summer, I do hope that I can help to contribute in achieving this glorious and meaningful goal for APMM.

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