Pinoys in Hong Kong rally over Tsip Chao

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 05 2009 05:47 PM | Updated as of Apr 06 2009 01:48 AM

HONG KONG - More than 1,000 Filipinos marched through Hong Kong on Sunday to protest against a local magazine columnist who described the Philippines as a "nation of servants" in a satirical article.

Chanting "No to racism. No to Discrimination" and carrying banners with slogans such as "We are workers, not slaves", the demonstrators marched through the city to challenge the recent article by writer Chip Tsao in HK Magazine.

Tsao had raised hackles by writing that Manila's claims to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea were ridiculous in the face of Beijing's rival territorial claims.

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

The comments angered a large chunk of the more than 120,000 Filipinos who live in the southern Chinese city, mostly as low-paid domestic workers.

The community has become increasingly vocal in recent years through church groups and other organizations, and regularly holds protests against unfair treatment or poor working conditions.

Tsao's column has sparked huge resentment here and in the Philippines, which has banned him from entering, even after he insisted the column was meant as a satire and apologized if it caused any offence.

"We acknowledge the apology of Chip Tsao and we take this action today as the expression of the community that we do not want this thing to happen again," Dolores Balladares, chairwoman of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, told AFP.

"As Filipino migrant workers, we do not tolerate any racism or discrimination attacking the Filipinos."

Balladares said the rally was also in protest at other discrimination in Hong Kong, such as the possible exclusion of migrant workers from an upcoming minimum wage law in the city.

"Every day the domestic workers experience discrimination," she said, adding that the column had been a symbol of discrimination.

The diplomatic dispute over the Spratlys, believed to sit atop vast mineral and oil deposits, was renewed early last month when China sent a patrol vessel to the area.

The move came after the Philippines passed a law laying claim to some of the disputed islands in the Spratlys chain. Beijing has called the law "illegal and invalid".

The chain of atolls and reefs is also claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.