A Filipino migrant rights group has welcomed the formal apology of Hongkong executive council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee over the latter’s controversial remarks on Filipino domestic helpers abroad which was circulated online.
“We welcome this gesture as a sign of her acknowledgement that whatever the intent of her article was, it has obviously offended many people particularly our more than 170,000 Filipino women domestic workers and the entire Filipino and migrant community,” said Eman Villanueva, chairperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)- Hong Kong and Macau.
In her “declaration” posted in her Facebook account on Friday, Ip said:
“I wish to tender my sincere apologies to all those who have felt offended by my article. I treasure my friendship with the Filipino community. I look forward to an opportunity to explain to the groups which called on my office in person to tender my apologies so that any misunderstanding could be removed.”
Ip reasoned out that she was not able to talk to the group of Villanueva when they visited her office yesterday because according to her “I was engaged in the Legislative Council.”
“I really wanted to make use of a face-to-face meeting to explain to them in person that I did not make the sexist or racist accusations reported in many media reports on my article.
“The sole purpose of my Ming Pao article published on 17 April was to raise a question as to whether there is widespread exploitation of Filipino maids in Hong Kong and to express my concern,” Ip said.
Ip however maintained that it was unfortunate that “the way my article was misinterpreted in some quarters has led many to believe that I was sexist or racist and was pointing a finger at the Filipino maids.”
“I strenuously deny such allegations. I have always been friendly to the Filipinos working in Hong Kong in diverse areas. I respect their hard work and their contributions to the Hong Kong community. I have treated my own domestic helper like family. The misunderstanding caused is deeply regretted,” said Ip, who is also a former Security Bureau chief in Hongkong.
Yet in a statement, Villanueva maintained that their another round of protest march against “discrimination and racism” in Hongkong will still continue this coming Sunday.
“The message that we would like to foster during this march is that non-discrimination and an inclusive and harmonious society is beneficial not only to migrant workers but for all the people of Hong Kong.”
According to Villanueva, the controversy surrounding Ip’s statement “should also serve as a wake-up call to the Philippine government.”
“That as long as they promote labour export and do not address the widespread unemployment, poverty, landlessness and social injustice – our people who are forced to leave the country for survival will always be vulnerable and subjected to discrimination and exploitation,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva then urged urged the Filipino community in Hongkong to come out this Sunday and wear purple dress “to promote the rights and respect for the dignity of women and in particular, women migrant domestic workers.”
In their earlier protest in Hongkong, the Filipino rights groups Gabriela, United Filipinos in Hong Kong, Bayan-Hong Kong and Macau and the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body issued a joint statement expressing “indignation” over Ip’s controversial statement which according to them “depicted Filipino women domestic workers as sexual predators preying on their male employers.”
Ip’s remarks was reportedly published by a Chinese-language Ming Pao newspaper.
“While Mrs. Ip has, since then, tried to explain that it was not her intention to do so, the damage has been done, an unfair picture of Filipino domestic workers has been pictured, and Filipinas in a relationship with expatriates or local men in Hong Kong have been stigmatized.
“Intentional or not, her statements reek of racism and sexism,” it said.
“Such statements are so unbecoming of a public authority who should be the one leading the promotion of harmony, acceptance, respect of people especially women, and multiculturalism,” the statement said in an earlier statement.
“We did not misunderstand Mrs. Ip. We know her views on migrant workers and her contrary position on the rights of migrants throughout the years. But her recent statement is just too much for it insults the dignity of Filipina domestic workers as women and as a people.
“We demand no less than a public apology from Mrs. Ip to the Filipino migrants and people and to the entire migrant domestic workers community,” the group said earlier.
“Women migrant domestic workers are integral part Hong Kong’s economic, social and cultural life of Hong Kong. We deserve the respect that must be accorded to workers, women and people in Hong Kong,” said Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK.
Reportedly, the Hongkong legislator in her comments ran by Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao Daily on April 17, 2015 said Filipino maids in Hongkong are being “turned into sexual resources for female foreigners in Hongkong.”
Philippine embassy officials in Hongkong were also reportedly “concerned” on the “unfortunate choice of words” of Ip.