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Hong Kong Politician Wants More Headlines About Filipina Maids Seducing Their Bosses

Foreign migrant worker communities demand Regina Ip to apologize for her racist, sexist and anti-migrant remarks. Photo from Twitter user: @emancv

Foreign migrant worker communities demand Regina Ip apologize for what they see as racist, sexist and anti-migrant remarks. Photo from Twitter user: @emancv

About 40 migrant domestic workers protested outside the office of Executive Council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's office on Thursday, demanding an apology for her comments accusing Filipino maids of sleeping with their foreign bosses.

Regina Ip's remarks appeared on her website as commentary on the suicide of a teenage girl, whose father is British and mother is Filipina. Ip criticized foreign media for depicting Hong Kong as a exploitative city while neglecting the sexual relationships between maids and their expat employers:

外媒除報道本地僱主的不當行為外,是否亦應多加留意大量菲籍女傭在港淪為外籍男士的性資源的問題?

Apart from reporting on the inappropriate behavior of employers, shouldn't the foreign press also keep a closer eye on why a great number of Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong have become sexual resources?

In response to her comment, the Philippine Consulate General issued a statement on April 20, expressing concern on her “unfortunate choice of words” and stressing that “discrimination should have no place in any society, most especially Hong Kong”.

The politician refused to apologize and insisted that she had actually received complaints from wives of foreigners about migrant maids stealing their husbands while she headed the Security Bureau (she resigned in 2003).

Eman Villanueva, one of the protest organizers, posted protest photos on Twitter and said:

Another protester wrote on Twitter:

Migrant worker communities' protest poster via Twitter user: stegersaurus

Migrant worker communities’ protest poster via Twitter user: stegersaurus

While local migrant communities called her “racist, anti-women and anti-migrants”, Ip received backing from a pro-Beijing current affairs commentator Lau Nai-keung. He hit back on her behalf in Chinese government mouthpiece China Daily, calling her critics “politically correct bigots“.

Blessed by Beijing, Regina Ip is a potential candidate for chief executive, Hong Kong's top leader, in 2017. In an interview with South China Morning Post in February, she hinted that she would run for the position and believed that “she has an edge over men as a politician because women are more used to taking a ‘soft’ approach.”

There are about 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, mainly from Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. Many don't believe that Ip “meant no offense” as this is not the first time she made discriminatory remarks about them. WK News, a labour news site, compiled her comments on working conditions of foreign maids in Hong Kong since 2011, including:

  • She took a stance against foreign domestic workers being able to apply for residency even though they have lived in Hong Kong for more than 7 years. She claimed that “Hong Kong could not afford to feed them” disregarding their contribution to local communities.
  • She claimed that foreign maids abused early contract termination compensation by acting like princesses to force employers to discontinue the contract.
  • In response to the survey indicating that foreign maids had to work 17 hours per day and endure employers’ abuse because of the compulsory live-in requirement, she argued that enduring long working hours was just part of the nature of the job.

Ah Lei, a columnist at citizen media platform inmediahk.net, theorized that Ip's comments on foreign maids are meant to project an image of statist feminist in defense of family values. She called such a political orientation as “good-wife authoritarianism”:

回顧葉劉氏一貫的說法與行為,可推論出她對「良婦女性主義」和「國家女性主義」的傾向,然而筆者認為,她的主張與行徑,充分顯示出一種「良婦專制主義」,在宣稱男女(生理性別)平等從而獲得更大權力與資本的同時,對情慾自主、種族平等、資源均等分配等運動暗藏負面態度,並且排斥一個更普及平等公開的選舉制度,主張以法律統治人民。這種主張,令筆者想到在奉行社會主義的年代,中國共產黨如何以「男女平等」的榥子,一邊利用女性的勞動力推動各種經濟政策,另一邊卻對女性在家庭、宗族、和社會文化各個層面的壓迫視而不見。

Reviewing Ms. Ip's previous comments and behavior, we can deduce that she is in favor of “good-wife feminism” and “statist feminism”. However, the way how she comments on current affairs betrays a kind of “good-wife authoritarianism”. On the one hand, she establishes her authority and [political] capital by supporting equality between man and woman (physically defined), while on the other hand, her attitude towards woman's sexual autonomy, racial equality and equal distribution of resources has been rather negative. Moreover, she is not supportive of a more equal and open election system. On the contrary, she advocates for “rule by law”. Her position reminds me of the Chinese Communist Party's socialist doctrine on “equality between men and women” in order to mobilize women to join the labour force in accordance with its economic policy. But it did not address the oppression of women in other domains including family, society and culture.

Given the protest over Ip's latest remarks, more than a few Hong Kongers would likely share this sentiment expressed in newspaper The Manila Times’ editorial (via media worker Galileo Cheng):

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