Stricter process for China-bound FDHs

Image title

Immigration Tower walkway entrance by Chawen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

THE Hong Kong Immigration Department vowed to be more strict before allowing a  foreign domestic helper to leave the city to join their employers for holidays in China.

At the July 19 Technical Working Group meeting between Philippine and Hong Kong officials, the  ImmD said the initiative would be implemented to “avoid the practice of some employers in  bringing their helpers to China in the guise of joining them for vacation but actually forcing the FDHs to work.”

The ImmD, however, said that while  they implement this, they could not automatically bar FDHs from leaving for China.

Sources from the PCG said ImmD officers would be asking more questions to FDHs accompanying  their employers to China.

The statement came days before 28-year-old Filipino domestic helper Lorain Asuncion reportedly fell down to her death on July 24 while in Shenzhen with her employers.

A source from the Philippine Consulate said the employers of Asuncion were arrested by police and were also released on bail.

The source said the case was being investigated as suspected human trafficking.

Asuncion’s aunt, the official said, turned over to the police records of WhatsApp conversations with her niece.

In a previous TWG meeting held in April, the ImmD committed to investigate complaints against employers who bring their Filipino helpers out of Hong Kong and forcing them to work.

The statement came after officials of the PCG and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office requested the ImmD to comment on the practice of some employers bringing their FDHs overseas and making them work there.

Philippine officials also raised the concern about FDHs traveling to China, and meeting an accident there, but had no medical insurance.

“The (ImmD)…encouraged FDHs to make a report for proper investigation. (ImmD) added that the FDHs can refuse their employer citing prohibitions under Hong Kong law,” the report said.

The Labour Department, meanwhile, would still be given one hour during the Post Arrival Orientation Seminars to discuss the rights and obligations of FDHs under the Hong Kong labor law to the newly-arrived migrant workers.

Court case

Hong Kong authorities had sued two employers and an official of an employment agency for allegedly taking a Filipina to the mainland and making her work there.

R. Ubaldo gave her testimony at a Kowloon City Courts on July 18-20 in the conspiracy to defraud trial of defendants of employers S.W. Wong, and Z. Huang, and employment agent C.K. Chan.

The witness said she signed a contract on Apr. 15, 2015 to work as the domestic helper of Wong. The contract stated the helper would, among others, take care of the employer’s daughter and son, and they would reside in an address in Hung Hom.

Ubaldo said it was Huang who interviewed her, and she was informed by Chan that the employer liked her.

After signing the contract, and staying in Macau while waiting for the ImmD to approve her new visa, Ubaldo said that on June 11, 2015, she started working in the address stated in her contract.

She said Wong did not reside at the address and it was Huang who gave her instructions and paid her salary. The witness added that Huang paid her in cash and didnot issue any receipts.

The two children that she took care of, she added, were also children of Huang
instead of Wong’s.

In her contract, Ubaldo said, it was stated that the children were Wong’s.

In August 2015, Ubaldo said she was informed by Huang that they were going
to China, and they would have a holiday there.

On Aug. 17, 2015, she, Wong and Huang’s daughter went to apply for a visa so Ubaldo could enter the mainland.

Looking at her contract, Ubaldo said she asked if the name that was there was Wong’s, and the latter confirmed that it was her name.

After learning of this, Ubaldo said she inquired from Chan if this was legal, and the agent allegedly said “no problem because they’re sisters.”

Ten days later, Ubaldo, along with Huang, and her children left Hong Kong for Guangzhou.

In Guangzhou, the Filipina said she was made to work at the house. She cleaned the house, went to the market, and cooked dishes. She also took Huang’s children to some exercise classes. In China, Ubaldo said, Huang took her passport.

“I did not like it because I was afraid that if something happened to me in China, how could they identify my body?” the Filipina told the court through an Ilocano interpreter.

She also said she got in touch with Chan to inform him that Huang took her passport.

“I was scared. If something happened to me, how would they identify me? Another thing was that she (Huang) was not my employer,” Ubaldo said.

Chan assured her that her passport would be returned to her.

As her visa was set to expire, she then returned to Hong Kong on Sept. 25, 2015.

After returning to Hong Kong, Ubaldo was told by Wong and Chan that she would have to go back to China to serve Huang’s family.

When she refused, she was terminated. Owing to this, Ubaldo said she went to the Philippine Consulate for  consultation.

On Sept. 30, the Filipina went to the ImmD to file a complaint against Wong, Chan, and Huang.

Under cross-examination, Ubaldo denied she still owed some money to Chan.
She added she was made to take a loan from a finance company, but the money was used to pay for her boarding fees and  other charges to Chan.

The prosecution also presented an Immigration officer, who said that only a Hong Kong resident and not someone from the mainland would be allowed to hire a foreign domestic helper in Hong Kong.

The witness, however, conceded that employers were not restricted from having their relatives or even friends stay in their residence and let their domestic helper serve them as well.

After the prosecution’s case, Kowloon Deputy Judge Andrew Ma said he found there was a case to answer against each of the three defendants.

He adjourned the case for the defense’s rebuttal to Sept. 14.

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