just because there was one migrant domestic worker had been confirmed to have been infected by the variant strain of the New Corona Virus on 29/Apr, the Government immediately announced on the the next day (30/Apr), one day before May Day, the Labour Day, to subject the 370,000 migrant workers in Hong Kong to compulsory Corona Virus testing on or before 9/May. also, vaccination for Corona Virus could be required for future application of VISA or extension for contract by the migrant workers. these two are really systemic discrimination policies.
compulsory testing is double discrimination
one after another, high ranking Government Officials denied that the compulsory testing constituted to racial discrimination and claimed that it was just a Pandemic preventive measure. as a matter of fact, cases where the employer had contracted the Corona Virus and had infected the migrant worker subsequently had already happened in Hong Kong. there were even cases where the employers would fire the migrant worker after the worker had been infected by the employer. the Hong Kong Government had not required compulsory testing of all the employers because one employer had contracted the virus, and had never worried about the employers would bring the virus back home and infect their workers, the Government did not care when the worker was being fired by the employer after being infected by the employer. however, when one migrant worker was found infected with the variant strain of the Corona Virus, compulsory testing was required for all 370,000 migrant workers in Hong Kong, and that actually means that all migrant workers were suspected as potential carriers of the virus. such a double-standard differentiated treatment of the employer and the worker, is obvious discrimination. not just racial discrimination, it is even more a discrimination of social class. even if the Government Officials echo and chorus with each others in their press conferences daily, it will still not be able to wash themselves clean of the discrimination
Government simply do not understand the way of life in the workplaces of the migrant workers
新措施的推行，也反映出政府根本不認識移工的職場生態，也沒有做research了解，下指令時只根據自己想要的結果做判斷。一般的僱員如有需要在辦公時間內使用銀行或政府服務，便會在lunch time偷時間或請假處理。移工不像一般僱員有明確上下班時間，佢哋一係返工，一係放假，星期一至六keep住stand by，無放工放lunch time 這種自由時間或灰色地帶。就算夜晚訓訓吓覺僱主也可以叫醒佢去煮宵夜，照顧長者去廁所或餵BB食奶。亦即是說，她們最大機會去做檢測是星期日，星期一至六根本沒有機會偷時間出去。除非，僱主容許吧；但只要是「除非」，即是非必然。
the implementation of the new policies had also reflected that the Government simply did not understand the way of life in the migrant workers’ workplaces, had not tried to research and learn, and just gave out orders with justifications made in accordance with the result that it wanted. for ordinary employees, if they have to use bank or government services during office hours, they could take time from their lunch or have a day off for that. migrant workers do not have clearly defined working hours like other ordinary employees, either they are at work or have a rest day, standing by continuously throughout Monday to Saturday, there are no free times or grey areas like; off hours or lunch hours. could even get awakened by the employer to make late night meals, helping the elderly to go to the toilet or feeding milk to the baby, when they could be sleeping at night. that means, their most possible day for the testing would be on Sunday, simply do not have the chance to find the time to go out from Monday to Saturday. unless, if the employer allows, but if it is an “if”, then it is unlikely.
although there are 9 days’ time from the 1st to the 9th, but if you look into it, most of the migrant workers could only manage to come out during those 3 public holidays. that was the reason why, on the May Day Public Holiday and the Sunday on 2/May, there were such long queues for the testing at Victoria Park and Central. because if the testing could not be done on these 2 days, then it would have to wait until the next week, and that is the deadline on the 9th, and if missing the deadline, there could be a fine of $5,000. the monthly income of the migrant workers is $4,630, just one fine will be more than a month’s salary.
the Government does not have a vision of the labours, and does not care about the well being of workers. this is not just on the migrant workers, but also those Government Departments and the testing staff who are involved and assisted in the testing. now, just an order by the Government, then 370,000 migrant workers and nearly a thousand working staff will have to comply and cooperate with the Government to fulfill its target in a short time, an ex-Legislative Council Member had said, this is an administrative catastrophe. those praises for the frontline staff, is really quite meaningless, would be better if you could really think about what exactly you are doing before you give an order next time. because a simple demand from on high, would mean many people have to rush and strive for you.
the compulsory test requirement came sudden and quick, on 1/May and 2/May, migrant workers could have rested and preserved their body and health, but turned out that they had to spend at least 5 hours to queue up for testing. for those who could not manage to get it on the first day, have to queue up again on the second day, the precious rest days were gone, and had to carry their fatigue to work on Monday. migrant workers are also human, are they despicable because they are away from home? are they easily bullied because they have a meager income and little bargaining power? how many times do you have to trample on others’ lives and dignities before you could be satisfied?
an ethical question: is compulsory vaccination saving or killing?
besides compulsory testing, the Government was even planning to establish the taking of vaccination as a requirement for contract renewal for the migrant workers in the future. migrant workers have to leave their home and find work in other countries, because life at their home country is difficult and it is not easy to find work. yet the Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi Kwong said to the media that he thought the vaccination requirement was not demanding, and “she can choose not to work in Hong Kong”. the monthly earnings of the migrant workers are meant to be sent home to their families for their living and survival, for someone that was forced to leave her/his family for this, what kind of a choice is there for her/his? compulsory vaccination, is to make them choose between, losing the means of survival for their families, or allowing the compulsory injection of medicine into their bodies.
body and health condition is different for everybody, reactions after vaccination would also be different. as could be learnt from the news, after being vaccinated, for some of the people with less than perfect health conditions, their chronic diseases could have possibly been triggered and had caused deaths, and some other could have other non-life threatening side effects. vaccination is not 100% safe, there is the possible risk of death. for someone who willingly takes the risk, and to take the vaccination voluntarily, it is their own choice. but if someone dies because of the compulsory vaccination, then there will be the ethical issue of whether the Government Official had become a murderer. how is the Government prepared to take up the responsibility of causing the death of migrant workers? even not for deaths, if there are non-life threatening lifelong or non-lifelong side effects, is the Government prepared to give compensation and medical treatment to the migrant workers?
systemic discrimination, normalising discrimination
no matter the media or the Government, had always been labelling and demonising the rest days of the migrant workers, and thus had been spreading prejudices. migrant workers would gather and meet with their kins in their rest days, Hong Kong people would also gather and meet with their friends and relatives. is it not true that the infection figure of Hong Kong would always rise after the major festivals?
during the holidays, Hong Kong people would flood the outlying islands, parks, beaches, mountain streams, or inviting friends and relatives back home for meals, and have their migrant worker who cannot have their rest days to care for their partying or mahjong games, and to take care of the cleaning up afterwards. we learnt from a migrant worker, her employer would invite people to go to their home to party every week, and even required her to clean the toilet after every use. during the Pandemic, the workload of the migrant workers had increased a lot, cleaning this and that everyday from Monday to Saturday with bleach all the time. but… on the only day of rest in a week, just going out and meeting with friends would be criticised by the others.
it is not the first time that the Government has used migrant workers as scapegoats. not long ago, it was the encouragement for the migrant workers to “have the holiday at home” during their rest days. actually, the “home” of the employer, is the workplace of the migrant workers. the actual meaning of “have the holiday at home”, is like asking people to “have the holiday at the workplace”. let’s be honest, as a worker ourselves, we would not like to have to be with our own boss even if we do not have to work, and it is the same the other way around. but the encouragement of the Government was to facilitate the employers to encourage/appeal/request the migrant workers to not go out in their rest days, and even refusing it, with the reason that there would be crowding of people during holidays. this had caused the effect that the rest days and free times of migrant workers were being stripped away. and even more, this had also caused the prejudice of “the gathering of migrant workers during rest days means danger” being spreaded among the people, and normalising discrimination.
discrimination is the social virus that had never been cured for thousandds of years
after the last one and a half years, not just that there has not been a recede of the global Pandemic, it has even ascended with a tendency of variant mutations. the more highly populated the place is, the easier it will be for large scale infections. Hong Kong is a crowded place, riding and crowding in the trains and buses everyday, going into shopping malls during the holidays, would actually be easy for the spreading of viruses. wearing masks, washing hands, cleaning up, could only lower the risks, and could not eliminate the possibilities of infection. if you have not been infected, it is just that you are lucky, but not that you are a Hong Kong people. only humans would have differentiated treatments because of race, viruses would not.
discrimination is a form of social virus, it spreads even faster than Corona Virus, and even further. Medical Science does not have medicines to cure it, Expert Scholars do not have methods of testing for it, the infected patients could even have no idea of themselves being infected. countless generations passing it on one after another, people as old as 70 or 80 years old, and as young as primary students who just got into schools, could have possibly been infected or being a carrier and spreader. the more the Society has fallen into dire strait, the discrimination virus would be spreading even faster, because people have a need to vent out their negative feelings and depressions, and someone to be blamed on.
the next day that the migrant worker has been confirmed to have been infected by the variant strain, on 30/Apr, a migrant worker friend told us, she was being discriminated against when she went to a restaurant to have some noodles. the customers there did not want to share a table with her, and when she tried to move to another table, those people used the plastic dividers to fill up the space of the tables when seeing that she wanted to sit down at the table. she was just hungry and wanted to have a bowl of noodles. having been given those starings and looks from the other customers, she eventually had the food packed and taken away, feeling helpless. her leaving of the restaurant was not a victory of self-defense of the Hong Kong people, but was a defeat of having never been able to fight and gain victory over the virus of discrimination.
supporting the migrant workers is supporting ourselves
maybe you do not think there are any problems with the migrant workers being forced into testing and vaccination today. but tomorrow, the Government could also be using unscientific reasons and think that it is reasonable to get you to compulsory testing or injecting you with a vaccine or whatever that is “good for the Society” into your body. your employer could also go along with the so called “Vaccine Bubble” that the Government is pushing and requires you to be vaccinated, for the sake of businesses. then when you have to choose between having work to feed yourself and your body, someone could also be saying to you, “you can choose not to work at this company”. could you understand? migrant workers are a disadvantaged community that is an easy scapegoat for the Government. if the Government is being supported in using them as a precedent, how are we going to defend ourselves boldly and confidently?
an agreement to ourselves
whether you want to fight for the injustice on migrant workers, or you are concerned about your body is yours to decide for, we like to invite you to sign on to this agreement. make a vow to yourself, that you understood the compulsory testing and vaccination policy of the Government constituted to discrimination, and understood and awared of the difficulties faced by the migrant workers working in Hong Kong, so in your everyday living, when you are witnessing migrant workers are being discriminated on, you would stand up and assist them to fight the virus of discrimination, and to show them kindness and support.
in the fight against the virus of discrimination, we ourselves might also be confronted with some social tensions, therefore this agreement, also wish to share with you our audacity and support: we do understand those doubts and challenges to fight against the norms, although we might not know each others, and have not met, but on this road to fight against discriminations, we are walking together with you. hope that when confronting the virus of discriminations, we would eventually become a strong crew.
we welcome your connection.
lastly, we hope that you could spend 13 minutes more watching this video about the long queues for CoViD 19 test on 2/May.
migrants solidarity committee of autonomous 8a
9th May, 2021