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Pro-domestic workers candidates lose in HK polls

Most of the political candidates who supported the battle for permanent residency of some 290,000 domestic workers lost in the recent Hong Kong neighborhood elections. According to a New York Times report on Monday (US time), majority of pro-democracy candidates lost their electoral bids while "pro-Beijing" politicians won over the majority of 336 contested seats. The New York Times said the domestic workers' battle for permanent residency was the “most divisive issue" in the neighborhood or "district council" race as five prominent democracy advocates lost early this week:
  • Tanya Chan (Civic Party);
  • Ronny Tong (Civic Party);
  • Lee Wing-tat (Democratic Party);
  • Wong Sing-chi (Democratic Party), and
  • Sin Chung-kai (Democratic Party). The report said the pro-Beijing politicians “successfully tapped anti-immigrant sentiment." “The pro-democracy Civic Party had been gaining ground in previous elections, but ran into trouble this year as lawyers who are prominent in the party took to social and environmental causes that were unpopular among many Hong Kong residents," the report said. Late last month, Hong Kong Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong sounded off an alert as more foreign domestic workers were applying for citizenship. The number of applications spiked — from only one per month to an average of 16 or 17— after the court thumbed down a government request for a stay on the decision that allowed Filipina Evangeline Vallejos to apply for permanent residency. Vallejos’ victory last September is considered a landmark feat for foreign domestic workers, who—based on the current immigration law in the region—cannot qualify for citizenship despite the number of years they spend there. There are about 117, 000 foreign domestic workers who are potentially eligible for residency, based on the court’s judgment. Vallejos—who has been in Hong Kong since 1986—is among the 139, 000 Filipino domestic workers in the area, which is considered to be the second largest group in this Chinese special administrative region, next to Indonesians. “A legal challenge to the current law, contending that Hong Kong’s mini-constitution should allow these workers to apply for and obtain citizenship after seven years, is now working its way through Hong Kong courts with help from Civic Party lawyers," the New York Times said. However, polls reflect that locals are worried that granting right of abode to these workers “would raise the costs of welfare and medical benefits," the report added. - VVP, GMA News