Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Hong Kong and the Philippines: Satire or racism?

A Senate leader in the Philippines just filed a resolution condemning a Hong Kong writer Chip Tsao for his article “The War at Home” in HK Magazine (originally published on 27 of March).

Now the article has been taken down in the website but the Senate Resolution also asked the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to look into the working condition of the overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong. As the Hong Kong government decided to exclude foreign domestic worker from minimum wage legislation, the article will certainly add oil to the flame.

Who is Chip Tsao?

So who is Chip Tsao and what exactly did he write? For local Hong Kong people, we know him as To Kit (陶傑), he is one of the most famous columnist and broadcaster in Hong Kong and he “earns” his reputation with his vulgar sarcasm, metaphor and Cantonese F words. Wikipedia has more of his background.

The article “The War at Home”, reading from the surface, is a commentary on international relation, in particular over the Spratly Islands, however, the embedded text is a criticism of Hong Kong Chinese's nationalism which is directed towards weaker country, rather than strong states, such as Russia and Japan. It is under such context that he wrote:

As a nation of servants, you don't flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.

Of course, such metaphor is very offensive to local domestic workers, especially the imagined conversation between him and “Louisa” (his domestic worker). However, if you have read how he criticized the Chinese government with his comment on June 4, you would be surprised (Apple Daily 205-05-07 via inmediahk.net):

況且比起土改和文革,中國的「六四」,在北京長安街天安門一帶,只殺了一兩千,數目出奇地少,所以「六四」不應該列為中國需要怎樣特別懺悔的「罪行」,這次殺得那麼少,太進步了,我覺得反而應該讚揚。

When compared to the Land reform and Cultural revolution, June 4, the killing in Beijing Chang-an street and Tiananmen, they only murdered 1 or 2 thousands, the number is extremely small. So June 4 should not be listed as a priority sin for China to repent. They murdered too few people in that incident, too progressive, I feel that they should be praised.

Mockery of Chinese or domestic workers?

Regarding this article, netizens from hkgolden forum pointed out that the article is in fact a mockery of Chinese government (the charge of treason) by quoting this part of the text:

I told her that if war breaks out between the Philippines and China, I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings.

Most of them agreed that Chip Tsao's mean and politically incorrect style would eventually result in big scandal, and the time has come. They re-pasted the apple daily news comic to spoof at Tsao:photo

Satire or Racism?

Meanwhile, the Asia City Publishing House (publisher of HK Magazine) has issued an apology to the Philippine Consulate General and took down the article in the HK Magazine website, but local filipino group demanded a more sincere public apology from Chip Tsao. In this afternoon press release (via e-mail), United Filipinos in Hong Kong stated:

We are all united in our position that the article was racist, discriminatory and demeaning to Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong. It was insulting to us as Filipinos and as domestic workers who are already confronting serious discriminatory and anti-migrant policies and practices in Hong Kong;

It was not a satire nor did we simply misunderstood the intent of the article. For if it was a satire, it should have been directed to the Philippine government who is also our exploiter and not to the Filipino domestic workers who have no hand on the position of the Philippine government on the Spratly Islands issue.

The NGO also calls for a protest rally April 5 against racial and class discrimination in Hong Kong.

Policy towards foreign domestic workers

The real issue at stake is probably not Chip Tsao's article, but local policy towards domestic workers. Apart from the exploitation employees’ retraining Levy, a more recent controversy is concerning the “exclusion to wage legislation and long working hours”.

Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body, an NGO, has issued a statement this afternoon saying that the HK government's decision to exclude foreign domestic workers from legal protection is a “double violation of rights of foreign domestic workers”.

When the Labour Advisory Board excluded FDWs in the statutory minimum wage because we are working 16 hours a day, what they are really saying is that it is acceptable to pay a measly amount to workers labouring under long working hours. They are saying that this type of modern-day slavery is right.

What is wrong with receiving such an amount if you labor for 16 hours in a day? If a worker works overtime – as what is obviously the practice with domestic workers – she has the right to be compensated accordingly. Don’t we deserve to get paid HK$30 per hour because we are foreign workers?

7 comments

  • you said: Of course, such metaphor is very offensive to local domestic workers, especially the imagined conversation between him and “Louisa” (his domestic worker). However, if you have read how he criticized the Chinese government with his comment on June 4, you would be surprised\n
    you indirectly defended TSAO here, he should not just write like that..he can just insult chinese govt because he’s s a people from china…we can flex anytime anytime our arms in times we’re being agravated…we do not consider our country as weak as you know..as we need to protect our people welfare so we need to be very diplomatic on every issues.,.but if (may God so not allow) war arise between us..we will fight to the end…we are brave and intelligent in terms of warfare..you can see in the history..being lack of modern ammunitions..we will utilize what we have..but I pray this should not be happened..

    you also said: The real issue at stake is probably not Chip Tsao’s article, but local policy towards domestic workers…

    NO..he touched to most sensitive aspect of filipino nationalism…

    I think you know what chinese had done in past days and present days..melanin , drugs, illegals businesses, corruptions too, a lot of chinese prostitutes…you doesnt have a clean country too..

    Respect Respect Respect to everbody….

  • anthony figurasin

    the harm had been done. he had made comments that do not depict the thoughts of a sensible and responsible columnist. as a matter of advise, please try to read history and please research on who are those people who sell \bote, dyaryo, garapa\ in the Philippines.

  • gregory

    “I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland.”

    “As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.”

    Please enlighten us how statements as blunt and direct as these qualify as metaphors of riducule against China. They do not even remotely refer to China. To say that the author mocks China’s nationalism by ridiculing “weak countries” as you put it does not make sense at all. People trying to figure out the “sarcasm” or the “figure of speech” here, as you claim it, would have to delve so deep trying to find them, don’t you think so?

    And FYI, Cheap Chow himself said he wrote the article to champion Chinese nationalism not to mock it:

    “I am an internationalist and I have nothing against the Philippines. In the column, I have taken a dramatic role to express the sentiment of Chinese nationalism.” -AFP

    Stop downplaying his offense. If he happens to be a responsible and intelligent individual, he should have calculated his statements first before letting it go into print.

    And by the way, if he wanted to discuss the issue of Spratleys, why direct his uneducated wrath to domestic helpers? Why not direct it to the Philippine government?

    “Internationalist” indeed. Stupid man.

  • i have no intention to defense chip tsao, however, to read this: “I am an internationalist and I have nothing against the Philippines. In the column, I have taken a dramatic role to express the sentiment of Chinese nationalism.” – as “championing of Chinese nationalism” leaves no space for further discussion. The frame in the head is reading and speaking for itself.

  • gregory

    Yes, not criticism of Chinese nationalism but championing of Chinese nationalism, ergo the insult is directed to domestic helpers.

    If you read the article “Politically Incorrect with Chip Tsao- The Vintage Year,”

    link: http://hk-magazine.com/feature/politically-incorrect-chip-tsao-vintage-year

    where he talks about the hiring of Filipino wet nurses in the midst of the melamine contamination brouhaha, the tongue-in-cheek sarcasm is quite clear to me. Despite the fact that his language is categorically offensive, as is his wont (talking about Filipino women like some milking cows that can afford Chinese mothers with milk of the “premium vintage” quality), beneath the surface, he is also criticizing the melamine scandal.

    However, with the War at Home article, it isn’t clear to me why HK magazine wants to downplay what he did. I just think that his words cannot remotely be directed as an insult to Chinese nationalism, in fact his language is reeking of it, with matching insults to a particular sector, the domestic helpers, to boot. Don’t you think he simply went a little overboard this time around?

    And as a matter of principle and a general rule, one can make bad comments about his own country, but should be very responsible when talking about other countries. Maybe he’s forgotten he’s in Asia and not in Western Europe where he might actually get away with such statements?

    And was it ever proper for him to say that Filipino domestic helpers should not flex their muscles against China just because they are imported workers? Perchance, this Cheap Chow man, has also forgotten he used to eat off from the salary thrown at him by Englishmen when he lived in the UK?

    If his logic is such that if one is an expat working abroad then you’re servant to the host country, then maybe he should reminisce the days when he was, himself, a manservant to some Lord Charles of Snobbishire.

  • I wish I get the chance to read his article before they took it down. Just reading excerpts of an article is not enough. The portions that you highlighted is somewhat satirical, but it did cross the line. It sucks that he wasn’t able to find a better wording to show his satirical piece on Chinese government. He has the freedom to write it, but it means that he also get to face the criticism from what he wrote.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site