HONG KONG – Two Filipino domestic workers were allowed yesterday by the city’s highest court to pursue their bid for permanent residency rights in the former British colony.
Chief Judge Andrew Cheung, sitting with Judges Robert Tang and Frank Stock, allowed the appeals in the landmark case of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs).
Evangeline Vallejos, who came to Hong Kong to work as a domestic helper in 1986, was the first to challenge the exclusion of FDHs to apply for right of abode. She won her case at the Court of First Instance in September last year.
Daniel Domingo also won his petition for residency right at the Court of First Instance last November.
The court earlier heard that Domingo was able to rent his own place; was absent in Hong Kong for only seven days during his 16 years of employment; and is raising three children in the former British colony. Two of his three Hong Kong-born children have already been granted right of abode.
However, their victories were reversed by the Court of Appeal last March.
Solicitor Peter Barnes welcomed yesterday’s court decision, saying they would continue to fight for the cases of Vallejos and Domingo in a bid to end the discrimination against FDHs.
“The court considers it obviously to be a matter of great importance and of course it is. We have to prepare and fight hard, and hope for the best,” Barnes told reporters outside the court.
“We obviously feel that the Court of Appeal got it wrong. But there shouldn’t really be discrimination or distinction between one large segment of the community and the rest of the community,” he added.
While no date has been set for the hearing at the Court of Final Appeal, Barnes said the case would be heard by four local judges and one judge from overseas.
Dolores Balladares, chair of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, also welcomed the court decision.
“This will bring back hope for Evangeline and Daniel to fight for their case to the Court of Final Appeal. We hope that when the cases reach the Court of Final Appeal, the decision will favor Evangeline and Daniel, which will let them live here in Hong Kong permanently,” Balladares said.
Pending the finality of the court ruling on the helpers’ bid for right of abode, the government continues to withhold the processing of right of residency applications from FDHs.
Balladares said the government’s strong opposition to FDHs’ bid for permanent residency rights showed that they are being excluded from society.