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Fight for Lorain

08 March 2019

One can only imagine what was going through the mind of Lorain Asuncion on that sad night in Longgang, Shenzhen, 19 months ago. Her sister says Lorain was unhappy that she was left there by her employers while they went off somewhere.

She was in a strange place, working for the female employer’s father she could hardly communicate with, so she was understandably sad, even resentful. But, says her sister, not lonely enough to have jumped off the old man’s 22nd floor flat.

That part we may never be able to verify, for three autopsies conducted on her remains did not indicate foul play. In short, it was likely she took her own life.

Her family was forced to accept that verdict after a long and agonizing wait. It took all of four months for the three post mortems to be completed that her body had to be put in a sealed coffin before it was shipped off for burial in the Philippines.

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Sad as that was, the family had to bear more setbacks in the months that followed.

First, they received word that Lorain’s employers were released from police bail without charges being filed. That meant that after 10 months of investigation, the police in Hong Kong had determined that there was no basis to charge the employers with conspiracy to make Lorain work illegally in China.

This was despite records showing that Lorain was brought across the border four times during the nine months that she was in the couple’s employ. That, and the incontrovertible fact that she was working for somebody who was not her employer at the time she died.



But more heartache was to come. Recently, Lorain’s sister learned from the solicitor they chose through legal aid to represent them, that their claim for compensation could not proceed because the Labor Department decided not to investigate the case at all. The reason given was that Lorain’s death happened outside Hong Kong.

That reasoning makes one wonder whether the controversial case is being deliberately shoved under the carpet so it does not again stir up questions as to why Immigration seems to look the other way when migrant workers are routinely sent or brought across the border by their employers.

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One can only imagine how prevalent this practice has become, when a chat with a longtime community leader revealed she had been crossing over to the other side nearly every other month, but has never received so much as a reminder that this practice could be in breach of the law.

And yet, Immigration has reportedly started warning absentee migrant workers – those who are away more often than they are in Hong Kong – that they must stay put for at least six months each year, or risk not having their work contracts renewed.

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But, as union leader Eman Villanueva says, Labor’s inaction has more far-reaching implications than this.

By refusing to look into the events that led to Lorain falling to her death in Shenzhen, Labour is sending the signal that employers are freed of any liability as soon as they take their helper with them abroad, or across the border.



By not providing relief to Lorain’s family members, the authorities effectively abet, rather than curtail, this widespread flouting of the laws by employers.

Ultimately, the inaction could lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign domestic workers being exposed to innumerable risks, not least of which is falling into depression, or harm.

There is only one way to stop all these, and that is, to conduct a thorough and impartial inquiry into the events that preceded Lorain’s death. That’s what justice is all about.
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