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EOC chair says FDWs deserve respect & gratitude, not discrimination

Posted on 19 June 2021 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

The EOC chair says it's hard to understand why FDWs aren't treated like other workers 

The chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission has called for respect and gratitude for foreign domestic workers, on top of ensuring that they are protected from all types of discrimination.

In an article he wrote to mark International Domestic Workers’ Day, EOC chair Ricky Chu noted the “immense contribution” of FDWs towards ensuring Hong Kong’s prosperity and well-being.

But more than showing them gratitude, he said FDWs should be given respect.

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“Domestic workers are employees, just like everyone else with a job. The law recognises this, with the Employment Ordinance and labour laws being fully applicable to foreign workers and their employers,” said the EOC chair.

“It is hard to fathom why those engaged in formally contracted domestic work are sometimes not accorded the same status as other workers,” he added.

Chu said employers must bear responsibility for ensuring the well-being of their domestic workers, especially now that most cannot go home and be with their loved ones.

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He said this means protecting the FDWs from the stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice that they often face because of their gender, race and perceived lower socio-economic status.

He cited an EOC survey that showed 6.5 percent of FDWs had reported being sexually harassed at work to show the kind of gender discrimination that many of them face.

Rare are the employers who look after their domestic workers when they get sick

He also said FDWs are often discriminated against when they get sick. Seeking medical consultation during weekdays “is always a struggle to some helpers, and termination of employment upon discovery of sickness is not uncommon," he noted.

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The EOC chair also pointed out that domestic workers are often targeted for discrimination because of their race and perceived social status. “We often hear of helpers not being allowed into certain venues or being subjected to additional scrutiny while shopping,” he said.

For all these to change, he said there is a need for public education and awareness, and this should start early among Hong Kong people.

“I would like to address those who have it in their hands to make things better for our domestic helpers - the employers. Let us show the world that Hong Kong is a fair and equal place with no room for discrimination,” Chu urged.

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The full text of Chu’s article, first published in the South China Morning Post on 16 July, is here:

More than gratitude, Hong Kong’s foreign domestic workers are due respect 

(By Mr Ricky Chu Man-kin, EOC Chairperson) 

EOC Chair Ricky Chu

Today is International Domestic Workers Day. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted ILO Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers in 2011 and 16 June marks the 10th anniversary of this convention.

It is an opportune time for us to show our gratitude to the foreign domestic workers for their immense contribution towards the well-being and prosperity of Hong Kong and its families. The more than 370,000 migrant domestic workers here contribute to Hong Kong directly and indirectly. An estimation in a 2019 report by Experian, a global information services company, in partnership with the charity Enrich, put their contribution to the city’s economy at $98.9 billion (US$12.7 billion), or 3.6% of local GDP. It also inferred that only 49% of Hong Kong’s mothers aged 25 to 54 could participate in the labour market if they did not employ migrant domestic workers as against 78% if they did.


This may also be a good time to remind ourselves of the working conditions to which these migrant workers are entitled. Domestic workers are employees, just like everyone else with a job. The law recognises this, with the Employment Ordinance and labour laws being fully applicable to foreign workers and their employers. By extension, their workplace is someone’s home. Just as certain norms, such as privacy, defined working hours and time off, dictate the treatment of office staff, for example, the same norms must apply to those working in a home, no matter the nature of work.

Further, employers in any workplace bear responsibility for their employees, and it is no different with domestic work. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the well-being of their domestic workers. Being away from family and loved ones is a sacrifice they make to have better prospects. Many are mothers who leave behind their young children. This can take a toll on their emotional well-being, especially now when travel is restricted. While most employers in Hong Kong are mindful of their obligations, the question is whether more needs to be done for these workers.

I worry most about the risk of stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice this group of workers faces. The vulnerability is on several levels – gender, race and perceived socio-economic status.

The nature of domestic work and the fact that their workplace is also their home makes domestic workers vulnerable to sexual harassment. In a 2014 Equal Opportunities Commission survey, 6.5% of the respondents reported that they had been sexually harassed at work or at a work-related event in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Discrimination arising from sickness is also seen among domestic workers. Having medical consultation in working days is always a struggle to some helpers, and termination of employment upon discovery of sickness is not uncommon. More than a few were fired after becoming sick with illness that were treatable in a reasonable length of time. It must be remembered that domestic workers are eligible for healthcare only as long as they have a valid work visa. Termination upon sickness leaves them without access to public health care.

Race combined with a perceived lower socio-economic status arising from society’s diminished view of domestic work appears to be another common ground for casual discrimination and prejudice against domestic workers. We often hear of helpers not being allowed into certain venues or being subjected to additional scrutiny while shopping. Attitudinal shifts can only take place through education and awareness.

It is important this begins in early life, before biases take root. We must instill in students the concepts of equality and inclusion which can then translate into thought, behaviour and action. It is hard to fathom why those engaged in formally contracted domestic work are sometimes not accorded the same status as other workers. I would like to address those who have it in their hands to make things better for our domestic helpers - the employers. Let us show the world that Hong Kong is a fair and equal place with no room for discrimination. It is up to us to change the perception. A city that has come up through hard work and enterprise must exemplify its respect for all labour, no matter where that work is or who performs that work.

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Immigration rejects visa applications of 840 suspected ‘job-hoppers’

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By Vir B. Lumicao  

 

Immigration says closer scrutiny of visa applications led to the jump in rejections

A total of 840 employment visa applications by foreign domestic helpers suspected of "job-hopping" were rejected in the first five months of this year, according to the Immigration Department.

The number is higher than the combined total of rejected visa application for the past three years, which totaled only 751. For 2018, there were 165 visa rejections, in 2019 there were 267, and last year, there were 319.

Responding to an inquiry from The SUN, an Immigration spokesperson said the spike in visa rejections was the result of a thorough analysis by its special duties team of cases in which FDHs are suspected of abusing the more relaxed system that allows them to change employers while in Hong Kong.

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The Immigration said the special duties team takes into account all relevant factors, such as the number and reasons for premature termination of contract, the conduct of the FDH and records of the helpers and the ex-employers.

“For individual FDHs suspected of job-hopping, the Immigration will refuse their employment visa applications and require them to leave Hong Kong,” the Immigration said.

Still, the number of rejections Immigration attributed to “job hopping” is a tiny fraction of the number of visa applications actually turned down for the first five months of the year.

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Immigration data show that of the total visa applications of 199,488 received from FDHs from January to May this year, only 168,546 were approved. This means the actual number of rejections or those still under process totaled 30,942. It is not clear what other factors were used to reject visa applications.

In a footnote, the Department merely explained the the wide gap in the number of applications received and denied by saying the dates of receipt and completion of processing “may not fall in the same period”.

           

FDH employment visa applications

2020

2021

Jan to May

Jan to May

Apps received

Apps approved

Apps received

Apps approved

100 385

93 333

199 488

168 546

Note: The number of applications approved does not correspond to the number of applications received since the date of receipt
and that of completion of processing of an application may not fall in the same period.

The figures supplied by Immigration also show a near doubling of applications year-on-year for the same period. In the first five months of 2020, a total of 100,385 applications were reported, which means a 98% jump in the number of applications received for the same period this year, as shown by the table above.

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This indicates a big jump in the number of premature termination of contracts of FDHs, a trend that may not necessarily indicate many are up to “job-hopping.”

Many of the stranded Filipino workers had their new work visa applications denied

As migrant support organizations like the Mission for Migrants argue, the term is just a myth, as FDHs are not likely to terminate their contracts on a mere whim, as many of them had spent huge amounts of money to secure their job.

But because of the unfair labelling, migrant workers are discouraged from taking steps to protect themselves from bad or even abusive employers for fear of having “bad records,” the Mission has said.

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Another group, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, said what happens in most cases is that the workers are forced to quit their jobs because of their slave-like treatment, not because they want to job-hop.

But because of  the high likelihood that their application for new employment visas would get rejected, “they are forced to just accept what the employers want them to do, (knowing that )if they complain, it will cost them their livelihood,” the AMCB has said.


Hong Kong’s existing policy allows FDHs whose contracts are prematurely terminated to remain in the city for only two weeks, before returning to their place of origin. They should apply from there if they wish to work in Hong Kong again.

But as a result of the pandemic, flexible arrangements were put in place, which allowed some of these workers to remain in Hong Kong and process a new work contract here. 

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PRs may start registering for $5k vouchers on Jul 4

Posted on 18 June 2021 No comments

By The SUN 

The vouchers may only be used to buy goods in HK, and only those living here may get them

Hong Kong officials have announced that the registration for the electronic consumer vouchers worth $5,000 each to be given to eligible permanent residents and new arrivals will begin on Jul 4 and last until Aug 14.  

Speaking at a news conference this afternoon, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said registration can be done online or via the iAM Smart app, or through paper applications available at the Post Office and other government offices.

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Those qualified to receive the vouchers are permanent residents and new arrivals on low incomes who have reached the age of 18 on or before Jun 18 this year. In addition, all applicants are required to make a declaration that they are currently living in Hong Kong.

While the total amount that each qualified resident will get is $5,000 this will be given in installments over a period of several months. The first handout will be given on Aug 1.

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Those who opt to receive the vouchers through their Octopus cards will first receive $2,000, then another $2,000 two months later, and the last $1,000 after several weeks.

The vouchers can be collected through the Octopus service stations at the MTR, 7-Eleven and OK convenience stores, Wellcome supermarket branches, or via the Octopus app.

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People may also receive them through direct deposit into their AlipayHK, Tap & Go or WeChat Pay HK accounts. They will first get $2,000 and then the whole $3,000 two months later.

The government has decided to issue vouchers this year as part of its pandemic relief aid to residents to help boost spending and stimulate the local economy.


Last year all qualified PRs, whether living in Hong Kong or elsewhere, were each given a $10,000 windfall. Newly arrived residents classified as needy were given the same amount from a trust fund.

HK reports 3 imported Covid-19 cases

Posted on No comments

By The SUN 

Two of the 3 imported cases were found to carry a mutated virus on arrival in HK

Two Indonesian domestic helpers and a seaman from Cyprus were the three Covid-19 cases reported today, Jun 18.

One of the domestic workers was found to carry the L452R mutant strain of the coronavirus while the seaman carried the N501Y variant.

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All tested positive on arrival at Hong Kong Airport although only one of the Indonesians had symptoms.

Friday was the 12th consecutive day that no local case was reported in Hong Kong. Yesterday, not a single case was recorded, either local or imported.

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But in the past 14 days, 32 cases were recorded, three of which were linked local cases. All the local infections were found to carry a rare strain of the N501Y mutation whose source is yet to be identified.

If no local case is again detected today, Macau could start talking to Hong Kong authorities on relaxing cross-boundary travel between their territories, including the possibility of allowing quarantine-free entry to vaccinated residents.

Currently, HK residents who enter Macau must quarantine for 14 days

Macau has previously said that it will initiate the talks if no local case is found in Hong Kong for 14 consecutive days.

Macau authorities continue to ban most non-residents from entering, unless they are related to its residents, along with students and essential workers. 

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Hong Kong residents can enter Macau if they have not been to any other places in the previous 21 days. They must also present a negative Covid-19 test result from the past 24 hours, and must quarantine for 14 days.

In Hong Kong, vaccinated travelers from Macau are required to undergo compulsory quarantine for seven days at a designated home or  hotel, and undergo self-monitoring for a further seven days.


They will be tested during the quarantine, and again on the 12th day after arrival.

Unvaccinated people must self-isolate for 14 days and self-monitor for another week. During quarantine they must undergo three tests and then again on the 16th and 19th day after arrival.

For more information on the local Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong, log on to www.coronavirus.gov.hk).

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Filipina DH charged with theft of employer’s jewelry worth $147k

Posted on No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Accused Karen Millare appeared in Eastern Court today but did not enter a plea

A 31-year-old Filipina domestic helper was charged with theft in Eastern Court today, Jun 18, for allegedly stealing $147,000 worth of jewelry early this year from her employer in Tseung Kwan O.

The defendant, Karen K. Millare, appeared for the first time in court this morning before Magistrate Peter Law. She has been in police custody since her arrest.

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The prosecution charged Millare with stealing five gold necklaces and one gold ring with an emerald stone, the property of her female widowed employer, Chung Siu-fong.

The alleged theft took place in January and February this year in the employer’s flat in Ming Chi House (Block D), Ying Ming Court, Po Lam.

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The prosecutor did not mention when the theft was discovered and when the defendant was arrested.

The prosecutor said the stolen jewelry pieces were given by the employer’s late husband as presents to her. The man died some time ago.

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The woman kept the necklaces and ring in a box that she locked up in a drawer in her bedroom. She placed the key in a bag, which she left in the bedroom, the prosecutor said.

Magistrate Law adjourned the hearing until Aug 3 at the request of the prosecutor, who said police investigation was not yet completed and further legal advice was needed.


In the meantime, the magistrate refused bail to the defendant and ordered her remanded in custody.

The latest jewelry theft allegation comes just more than a week after 45-year-old Filipina domestic helper, Carmelita Nones appeared in the same court and admitted stealing $14.6 million worth of jewelry, gold bars and cash from her employers in Deepwater Bay, Island South. Two of her relatives also pleaded guilty to handling or pawning the stolen goods.

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OFW artists assert unity, fortitude and hope in battle vs virus

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By Vir B. Lumicao  

Consulate officials pose with the contestants in the drawing and poetry contests

Art-minded overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong were the stars on Sunday, Jun 13, as the Consulate celebrated the 123rd Araw ng Kalayaan and 26th Migrant Workers Day indoors for the second year in a row.

Guia Mae C. Ico from the Filipino Image Society won the grand prize in the drawing contest while Gemma Lauraya, president of the National Organization of Professional Teachers Hong Kong Chapter, topped the poetry-writing contest.

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The event was described as a success, despite being constrained by safety protocols to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The twin events were aptly themed “Bangon Manggagawa sa Kabila ng Pandemya” (Rise despite the pandemic, Worker) and featured the talent of the OFW participants in both visual and literary arts.

“We celebrate this day in recognition of the valuable contributions and sacrifices of our overseas Filipino workers,” Consul General Raly Tejada said in a speech delivered by his deputy, Germie Aguilar-Usudan.

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ConGen Tejada said Migrant Workers Day is a celebrated by virtue of the enactment or RA 8042, which aims to advance the well-being of OFWs, their families, and specially distressed overseas workers.

“The PCG organized the contest “to encourage the Filipino creativity and ingenuity through sketching and expressing their ideas clearly and effectively through writing,” ConGen Tejada said.

Guia Mae Ico with her obra that won the grand prize in the drawing competition

The 21 aspiring poets and 18 artists who participated in the poetry and drawing contest adhered to the theme and expressed their views about Covid-19, the impact of the health crisis on their own and their family’s lives, as well as their hopes.

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The strength of a migrant worker in the face of great challenges is evident in their work: from the bleakness and uncertainty brought about by the virus as it initially ravaged the Chinese city of Wuhan and then crept into Hong Kong and other places in early 2020, hope helped her keep her nerves as the disease hit her relatives and friends back home.

Ico, who was adjudged as the best in the drawing contest, depicted Hong Kong people from various sector joining hands to fight the virus.

Noemi Manguerra's piece that depicts the virus being trampled took second place

In second prize was Guhit Kulay’s Noemi Manguerra whose drawing shows a domestic worker joining other members of Hong Kong society in crushing the virus underfoot. Manguera was sponsored by United Migrants for Entrepreneurship and Livelihood Association (Umela).

Third-place winner Jacklyn Evangelista, a pencil portraitist also from Guhit Kulay, depicts a boatload of masked Hong Kong people on a mask-boat navigating a sea of coronaviruses.  She was sponsored by Balikatan sa Kaunlaran Hong Kong Chapter.  


On all three winning drawings, the sun shining in the sky represents hope in overcoming the crisis as society joined hands to combat the virus.

Jacklyn Evangelista's depiction of unity amid the pandemic won 3rd place

Angst caused by the pandemic as OFW mothers separated from their families by the need to build a better future for everyone is palpable in the poems, but hope, as in the drawings, was the underlying thread that kept the worker intact, body and soul, in the face of the pandemic.

Lauraya’s winning entry, “Pagbangon sa Pandemya,” expounds on the virtues of “bayanihan” (helping hands) and national unity, to help the country rise above the crisis.

Lauraya combines her adeptness in the national language with anti-pandemic slogans to come up with prosody that lends smoothness to her verses:

Bayanihan para sa ating Inang Bayan,

Buong mundo sa krisis ng pandemya ay lumalaban.

Sa panahong ito tayo ay pantay-pantay

Walang mahirap, walang mayaman

Sandigan ang Diyos, We pray as one.

Katatagan sa kabila ng takot at pangamba

Buhay at kalusugan pati kaligtasan ng pamilya

Ngayon ang bakuna ay naririto na.

Alisin ang takot, huwag mawalan ng pag-asa.

Palawakin ang kaalaman, We heal as one.

The former teacher urges the modern-day heroes to stay on the right path as they earn bread for their families and renew their hope in order to overcome this dark episode:

Itaguyod ang pamilya sa marangal na paraan.

Sa likas na talino at sipag mong taglay.


Bagong pag-asa ang tanging hiling

Anumang unos malalampasan natin.

Magandang kinabukasan paggising natin

Second placer Amelita Jr. Alba’s winning piece, “Bangon Manggagawa sa Kabila ng Pandemya,” affirms her resolve in fighting Covid-19 as she expresses her hope of reuniting with her loved ones in the near future.

Lugmok man at pag-asa ay pansamantalang naantala,

Sa pagsubok ng pandemya ako ay di madadala

Bagkus pagtitiis ko’t sapalaran ay pag-iigtingin pa

Para sa pamilyang naghihintay sa akin tuwina.

She urges her fellow OFWs to take care of themselves but remain firm and armed with prayer:

Kahinaan ay ipagwalang-bahala, katatagan ating ialsa

Alalahanin lagi ang ating mga pamilyang umaasa

Na naghihintay sa ating pagbabalik bukas makalawa.

Third-prize winner Margie Cataina Belardo’s poem “Pinoy Tayo, Matatag, Palaban” shows OFWs’ fear for the safety of their loved ones as the pandemic began to take hold across the globe.

Ano itong ganap, sa mundo ay lumaganap?

Nagdulot ng takot, takot sa pagkatao mo’y bumabalot

Pangamba at kaba para sa pamilyang sa iyo ay umaasa

Umaasa na sa isang umaga, ikaw ay makasama, mayakap, madama.

But Belardo, representing Happy Hearts Isabela Federation, advises her fellow migrant workers not to lose hope and keep pursuing their dreams:

Masdan mo ang liwanag ng araw na nagbibigay pag-asa

Pag-asa na dapat tayo’y lumalaban sa pagsubok

Pagsubok na sumusubok upang tayo ay pilit na ilugmok

Ngunit ito’y hindi dahilan para itigil ang bawat pangarap na nasimulan.

The winners received cash and prizes in kind donated by sponsors from the Filipino community.

The twin competitions were held under the auspices of the Consulate and managed by Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Lauraya's winning entry in full: 

Gemma Lauraya's poem on fortitude won the grand prize

Pagbangon sa Pandemya

Bayanihan para sa ating Inang Bayan,

Buong mundo sa krisis ng pandemya ay lumalaban.

Sa panahong ito tayo ay pantay-pantay

Walang mahirap, walang mayaman

Sandigan ang Diyos, We pray as one.

Katatagan sa kabila ng takot at pangamba

Buhay at kalusugan pati kaligtasan ng pamilya

Ngayon ang bakuna ay naririto na.

Alisin ang takot, huwag mawalan ng pag-asa.

Palawakin ang kaalaman, We heal as one.

Mabuhay ka, manggagawang Pilipino!

Sa mga kamay mo nakasalalay paglago ng bayan mo.

Itaguyod ang pamilya sa marangal na paraan.

Sa likas na talino at sipag mong taglay.

Saludo kami sa’yo, Bayani kang totoo.

 Pagbangon sa krisis na dulot ng pandemya.

Malasakit sa isa’t-isa at solusyon sa problema.

Iwasan ang sisihan bagkus ay magtulungan

Sumunod sa batas para tayo’y maging ligtas

Sa COVID-19 tayo ay maka-iwas.

 Bagong pag-asa ang tanging hiling

Anumang unos malalampasan natin.

Magandang kinabukasan paggising natin

Adhikain ng pangulo makalikha ng trabaho

Sapat na proteksyon at serbisyong totoo.

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2 Filipinas among 16 women arrested in anti-vice raid

Posted on 17 June 2021 No comments

By The SUN 

The women are suspected to have worked illegally, overstayed or possessed invalid HKID cards

Hong Kong Police, together with officers from the Immigration and Labour Departments have reportedly arrested 16 foreign women in a joint anti-vice operation conducted Wednesday, Jun 16.

Those arrested were made up of nine Chinese nationals, two Filipinas and an Indonesian with HKID cards, three other Indonesians without ID cards, and a Thai woman with a passport.

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They were rounded up in several raids at multiple locations in the Yau Tsim Mong area.

The women were suspected of violating their visa conditions, overstaying their visas, accepting illegal work or possessing invalid identity cards.

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In a separate case a Vietnamese woman found to have worked illegally as a manicurist was sentenced to 15-month imprisonment at Shatin Court yesterday.

The 21-year-old defendant was arrested on May 3 by Immigration investigators during a raid on a manicure shop in Sai Wan after she was found to carry a recognizance form, which prohibits her from taking employment.

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She pleaded guilty to charges of illegal work and remaining in Hong Kong without the authority of the Immigration Director, or while a removal or deportation order against her was in force.

A person suspected of having hired her illegally was also arrested and is still being investigated.


A statement from Immigration has warned illegal immigrants or those holding recognizance forms that they are violating the law if they take up any employment, whether paid or unpaid, or join any business operation.

Offenders face a maximum fine of $50,000 and up to three years imprisonment, although the Court of Appeals has issued a sentencing guideline of 15 months’ imprisonment in such cases.

Those found to employ people who are not allowed to take up work are themselves guilty of an offence, for which the maximum penalty is three years’ imprisonment and a fine of ip to $350,000.

Employers can also be held liable if they fail to inspect the job seeker’s HKID card. The maximum penalty for such an offence is imprisonment for one year and a fine of $150,000.

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