Ario Adityo, Media Bersama: Indonesian migrant workers demonstrated along with thousands of Hong Kong citizens on July 1. This action coincided with national holiday to mark the day that Hong Kong returned to China.
The group of demonstrators demanded democratisation, like direct elections, wage increases as well as an end to discrimination against minority groups and migrant workers.
“We demand the immediate halting of discriminatery treatment that is carried out by the Hong Kong government towards migrant workers through its immigration policy” said Rusemi, head of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (IMWU).
IMWU condemned the Hong Kong government after evaluating their discrimination towards migrant workers through their immigration policy, the New Conditions of Stay (NCS). Under this policy migrant workers are forbidden to bring their family to Hong Kong, are not allowed to change their type of work, do not have the right to become a permanent resident of Hong Kong even after they have worked there for more than seven years. In addition to this migrant workers are only allowed to remain in Hong Kong for 14 days after the end of their contract.
As observed by Gilang from the advocacy committee of IMWU, “the Hong Kong government has already discriminated against women workers, particularly foreign domestic workers. This policy is only valid for migrant workers who have been categorised as unskilled labour - and domestic workers are categorised as such” she said.
Similar to GIlang, Rusemi said, the Hong Kong government should be able to understand that to do domestic work requires expertise that not all people have or want to do. “The category of skilled and unskilled labour is rubbish”, said Rusemi.
The struggle of Hong Kong migrant workers to abolish this government policy has been a long one. One success has been to push the Committee for the Abolition of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), one of the committees in the United Nations, to make a recommendation to the Hong Kong government to immediately abolish the NCS.
Related to the question of discrimination and minorities, on July 9, 2008, the Hong Kong legislative council will examine and finalise a law that regulates the question of minority groups. This law has already been examined several times last year. However migrant workers have determined that this law remains discriminatory. In fact, it legalises discriminatory treatment of migrant workers.
Anticipating this possibility, Rusemi said: “If the Race Discrimination Bill (RDB) does not have effect on all regulations, including immigration policy, then truly this law is a form of ratification of discriminatory actions towards migrant workers, IMWU rejects this legislation!”
According to Rusemi, in one passage of the RDB legislation exempts its application to of immigration law.
Migrant workers have always had difficulty when they struggle for their rights that are violated by their employer and agents in the Hong Kong labour tribunal. Moreover, migrant workers are forbidden from working while their case is being resolved.
* Ario Adityo is contributor for Mediabersama.com lving in Hong Kong. Translation for ASAP by Rebecca Meckelberg.