HK action plan to better protect FDHs unveiled
Vowing to “strengthen” the prosecution of abusive employers and employment agencies (EAs), the government today unveiled a comprehensive action plan to better protect foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong and prevent human trafficking.
In a statement, the government said its “Action Plan to Tackle TIP (Trafficking in Persons) and to Enhance Protection of FDHs in Hong Kong” includes strategic and targeted measures that would provide support and protection for victims and the prosecution of offenders.
“It demonstrates the determination of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the concerted efforts of various bureaux and departments in combatting TIP and protecting FDHs,” said Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung.
“TIP is a heinous crime which must not be tolerated. Crimes relating to TIP need to be tackled on all fronts. As the threat of trafficking posed by transnational organised crime syndicates continues to evolve, we have continued to identify necessary new measures in response over the years,” he said.
“Noting that our community fully appreciates the contribution of FDHs, the Action Plan includes measures for enhancing their protection to prevent them from falling victim to exploitation,” he added.
Under the action plan, the government intends to set up “a new dedicated FDH Division” in the Labour Department to “ensure the effective implementation of measures to enhance protection of FDHs.”
It will also appoint “dedicated teams or officers” in the relevant law enforcement agencies “to handle cases relating to TIP and exploitation of FDHs.”
“The Police will designate investigation teams in each of their six regions to handle all suspected cases, whilst the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau will continue to handle the more complex ones,” the government said.
It said Immigration Department and Customs and Excise Department designated teams “will step up investigation on cases suspected of TIP and exploitation of FDHs.”
“Designated teams will also be responsible for monitoring the trend of the crimes and the prompt referral of victims to other departments for investigation or to accord assistance where necessary,” the government said.
To enhance the prosecution of abusive employers and employment agencies, the government said it will “increase the maximum penalty for the offences of EAs “overcharging job-seekers or operating without a licence, and to extend the scope of the overcharging offence to associates of the licensee (including the management as well as persons employed by EAs).”
It would also to extend the statutory time limit for prosecuting the overcharging and unlicensed operation offences to 12 months from the date of the commission of the offence.
The government also vowed to take “prompt and strenuous enforcement actions” against employers who commit abuses, including physical and sexual abuse, illegal deployment, underpayment or non-payment of wages, and other offenses.
A “dedicated hotline with interpretation services” will also be set up to provide “one-stop support services” to FDHs.
The government said it would also strengthen the facilitation of FDH victims to stay in Hong Kong to assist in the investigation and prosecution process, “including the handling of applications from these FDH victims to change their employer without leaving Hong Kong.”
“At the end of 2017, about 370,000 FDHs were working in Hong Kong and their population is expected to continue to grow in future years,” Mr. Cheung said.
“Whilst FDHs are fully protected under Hong Kong’s labour laws and the government-prescribed Standard Employment Contract to prevent them from falling victim to exploitation, we also take the opportunity to develop new measures for enhancing the protection of FDHs,” he added.