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Migrants accuse police of discrimination by enforcing 5pm curfew on Sunday

14 August 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Cheung says it didn't make sense that police enforcing the gathering ban came by the dozen

Leaders of foreign domestic workers have accused the Hong Kong Police of discrimination and harassment for allegedly telling them to get off their usual hangouts last Sunday, Aug 9, and ordering them to go home by 5pm.

The police took action in the wake of an outbreak of Covid-19 cases in several dormitories where Indonesian domestic workers had stayed.

But during an online press conference today, Aug. 14, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body called the police action last Sunday discriminatory and a violation of their right to free assembly.

Hong Kong police ordering on Sunday the foreign domestic workers to go home at 5pm to vacate their place of stay is not only violative of our rights but also discriminatory, singling out the FDWs,” said the statement read out by AMCB spokesperson Sringatin.

She said the police should realize that FDWs are given 24 hours of rest, and if they are made to return to their employers’ homes they would be forced to work.

Sringatin also pointed out that based on documented reports, it is usually the employer who passes on the virus to a helper, and not the other way around.

AMCB chair Dolores Balladares Pelaez said they would send a complaint letter to the Commissioner of Police about the incident. They would also tell members not to be intimidated and to go back to their usual meeting places.

“This coming Sunday we are planning to tell our members to go back to assert their right to be there (meeting place),” said Pelaez.
Pelaez holds up a poster addressed to police and individuals who unfairly label FDHs as virus spreaders

Labour Party Legislator Fernando Cheung backed the migrants’ demand, and said that if the government does not want FDWs to congregate in parks and other open spaces, they should open community halls to them on their rest days.
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Cheung had earlier called for holiday camps to be opened for migrants who are in-between jobs so the cramped dormitories and boarding houses where they are forced to stay would be less crowded.

The lawmaker said he would write to the Home Affairs Department himself to make both proposals official.

He also scored the police for the arrests of a number of FDWs last Sunday for allegedly violating the rule that no more than two people should be together in a public place, and the one that makes the wearing of masks outdoors compulsory.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

Cheung said “it did not make sense” to limit the number of people gathering in public spaces, pointing out that the officers themselves came in groups of around a dozen when they carried out the enforcement operation.

“Why were they not afraid (of infection)?”, asked the lawmaker.

A police spokeswoman had informed The SUN on Monday that 16 Filipino domestic workers were arrested last Sunday in Central and Tseung Kwan O for violating the gathering ban and the rule requiring the public to wear masks outdoors.

Cheung said police should exercise discretion in enforcing the social distancing rule, and that their action should be more informative rather than punitive.

Two FDWs, an Indonesian and Filipino, gave testimony about the police crackdown last Sunday, while another Filipina helper related that she decided to leave her employer’s house because she had been prevented from taking a day-off since December last year.

Also at the press conference was Johannie Tong, community relations officer of the Mission for Migrant Workers, who said they received reports from migrant workers who were stalked not just by the police but also by individuals who took photos of them while they were taking their day-off.

Tong said the targeting of migrant workers was unfortunate, as it reinforced the discriminatory notion that they are potential virus-spreaders.

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