HK lawmaker to ask government to lower interest rates for FDH loans

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A Legislative Council (LegCo) member has promised to take up with the government the request to lower loan interest rates for foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.

LegCo member Kenneth Leung said during a forum at the Philippine Consulate General on March 24 that he would take up the issue with HK government officials during the question hour at the council.

“I promise… I will put in a written question to the government within the next two weeks or, if I get an oral question slot, I will ask this particular question because I have raised many issues about money lenders already before,” Leung said.

“For the interest rate point, I will ask the written question to the government,” he added.

In October last year, the Philippine and Indonesian consulates formally asked the Hong Kong government if it could lower the interest rates for foreign domestic workers.

Philippine Consul General Antonio Morales and Indonesian Consul Erwin Muhammad Akbar met then with Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and made a joint demarche to also seek “strong action from the Hong Kong government” against loan sharks.

“This joint call aimed to raise concerns on recurring cases that occurred on November 2016, July 2018, and August 2018 wherein illegal money lenders asked the HSWs (household service workers) to surrender their passports in exchange for the loans,” said a statement issued by the Indonesian consulate general at the time.

For his part, Leung urged foreign domestic workers to borrow from licensed money lenders so as not to fall victim to loan sharks.

“If you want to borrow, the best venue for you to borrow are from licensed money lenders. Of course, you can borrow from banks. Some of the banks may require some proof of income and maybe some sort of guarantee but, for money lenders, they may relax their requirements,” he said.

“Do make sure these money lenders are licensed as well,” he added.

Leung said money lenders are allowed to charge only up to 60 percent interest annually, which he said was “still very high.”

“In 2017, a loan shark syndicate was busted by the police department and several Hong Kong operators and several of your countrymen were arrested because they were charging a very hefty interest—120 percent,” Leung said.

“They charged 120 percent per annum but they still got 1,2000 clients from your country. So, watch out please,” he said.

“If they charge you 100 percent interest rate, that would be a drain to your income and they would call you from time to time so please watch out,” he added.