Ex-domestic helper speaks at rally: HK helped me feed my family, leave it be

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Marilyn Abayon Li, a Filipina who worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, addresses the crowd at Edinburgh Place

A Filipina who worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong spoke at a protest held on Dec. 22, saying she hopes the government will listen to calls made by some quarters for Hong Kong’s autonomy to be fully respected and upheld.

Marilyn Abayon Li, a Filipina who worked in Hong Kong as a domestic helper from 1987-1990 and has later operated a family business here in Sai Kung for 15 years, said that she chose to speak in the said rally amid the possibility of getting arrested because Hong Kong has “helped her so much.”

“Laki ng pasasalamat ko sa Hong Kong,” she said. “This land is helping me.”

Li spoke before hundreds of people who participated in a rally held at the Edinburgh Place to denounce China’s alleged detention of Muslim Uighurs, an ethnic group from the region of Xinjiang.

“I have nothing to be afraid of,” she said. “Hong Kong has helped me. I can feed my family because of Hong Kong,” she said before the crowd.

She said in an interview with Hong Kong News that China should not “force” Hong Kong to submit to it, as the latter enjoys autonomy from the mainland. Under the “one country, two systems” constitutional principle, Hong Kong can retain its own economic and political systems separate from the mainland for 50 years until 2047.

Li likened Hong Kong’s situation to Mindanao, a southern region in the Philippines. “Para rin itong Mindanao na gustong magkaroon ng separate system sa Maynila,” she said.  Areas in Muslim Mindanao has sought autonomy from the Philippine national government, which led to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 1989 and then the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in January 2019.

Li, who has been in Hong Kong for 30 years, spoke at the rally amid recent actions done against foreigners who have been accused of supporting pro-democracy protests.

An Indonesian foreign domestic helper, Yuli Riswati, was deported on Dec.2 for overstaying her work visa which has expired on July 27. She has applied for visa renewal but was supposedly “pressured” to withdrew it, according to local reports.

She wrote about the protests as a citizen journalist for the Hong Kong-based Indonesian newspaper Suara and online news outlet Migran Pos.

A Filipino dancer in Disneyland, on the other hand, Jethro Pioquinto, was arrested in August on charges of unlawful assembly. The prosecution later withdrew the charges against him in November due to insufficient evidence. The overseas Filipino worker also later won his petition to have his legal costs covered by the government.

Hong Kong has been rocked by protests since June this year. The protesters initially demanded the withdrawal of the extradition bill, which will allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions which Hong Kong does not have an extradition treaty with, including mainland China and Taiwan.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam withdraw the bill in September, but the protests have continued. Their demands now included the following: for the arrested protesters to be granted amnesty, for the protests not to be called as “riots,” implementation of the universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police violence.