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Migrant workers mull legal action over mandatory jabs & tests

02 May 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Villanueva says AMCB will first file a complaint with EOC 

Migrant domestic workers are set to file a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission tomorrow, May 3, against the Hong Kong government’s order for them to undergo mandatory tests and vaccination against Covid-19.

This was disclosed in an online press conference on Labor Day by Eman Villanueva, spokesperson for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, as government officials scrambled to deflect criticism of racism and discrimination against the order announced the previous day.


Villanueva said, “We want to find out the opinion of the EOC on this matter.”

He added migrant workers groups are also consulting with human rights lawyers on the possibility of filing a legal challenge against the testing order, which is supposed to last from May 1 to May 9; as well as the mandatory vaccination for those applying for employment visas in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong government officials, meanwhile, have staunchly defended the orders, dismissing claims they were discriminatory.

Health Secretary Dr Sophia Chan said the measures were intended to reduce risks of infection, as helpers often work with the elderly and the young.

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“It is important for us to build herd immunity so that everybody is being protected, including those who can’t be vaccinated," she told reporters on Saturday.

Chan insists MDWs are at 'high risk' of bringing the virus into their employers' homes

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung also deflected criticism. Writing in a blog post Sunday, he said the measures are aimed at protecting MDWs, their employers, families and friends.

But speaking at the press conference, former legislator and human rights advocate Fernando Cheung said outright that it is illegal to compel people already in Hong Kong to get vaccinated.

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He also said forcing the 370,000 strong MDWs to get tested is “totally uncalled for” and could lead to “logistical nightmare.”

Cheung said, “If you are applying from outside, I think the government can do that as a public health measure, but to impose on people who are already in Hong Kong, it is discrimination.”


He also said that adding forced vaccination to the terms of the employment contract would be illegal because it would not be a mutually agreed condition between the worker and the employer, but a government imposition.

Apart from these, he said mandatory inoculation is “totally unethical” because it would amount to forcing certain people to submit to a medically invasive procedure. He called on medical professionals to join the protest against the order, which has yet to be enforced.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

Cheung also expressed concern about how all MDWs could comply with the testing order within the nine days set by the government, given that many of them are able to go out only on Sundays and statutory holidays.

He said most appointment slots at community testing centers have been filled within hours after the mandatory test was announced, and worried of chaos erupting should people start scrambling to comply within the period set.

Cheung says it is 'illegal and immoral' to compel people in HK to get vaccinated

“I am not opposed to testing and vaccination. I think testing and vaccination are necessary…but we need to strike a balance between public health concern and individual rights,” Cheung said.

AMCB leader Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said her group is also working on getting support, not only among migrant workers, but other groups such as non-government and church organizations.

“Our consulates must also say something about this. They should represent the clamor of their nationals,” she said.

She added MDWs are demanding a retraction of the government orders, and make testing and vaccination voluntary for everyone, including MDWs.

Sringatin, also of AMCB, said members of their group, whatever their nationality, have also been asked to support their call for a silent protest.

They could do this by holding up posters expressing opposition to the orders while in their favorite haunts, without saying anything.

Pelaez said it was regrettable that instead of honoring MDWs’ contribution to society on Labor Day, Hong Kong chose to pass an order that discriminates and stigmatizes them.




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