Hong Kong

The Asian Students Association, based in Kowloon, Hong Kong, defends the rights of students from southern Asian countries - among them Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines -, who often find themselves victims of discrimination by the local Cantonese and Anglo-Saxon population.

Together with the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, the ASA also stands up for migrant workers, notably "FDHs", short for "Foreign Domestic Helpers" (or FHWs, "Workers", as ASA & APMM campaign for them to be called), most of whom hail from the Philippines and Indonesia. FDWs are excluded from the rule whereby anybody who works in Hong Kong for seven consecutive years automatically qualifies for HK citizenship. FDWs are ordered to leave Hong Kong as soon as their work contract finishes, even if over 25 years have passed since their arrival. Evangeline Banao Vallejos, mother of five living in HK since 1986, won a court case in 2011 allowing her to stay, but this decision was recently overturned by the HK government. For Rey Asis and Eman Villanueva of the ASA and APMM, who I met in Hong Kong in 2010, the struggle continues.

I distinctly remember my arrival at the Hong Kong airport - the immigration section was split into three queues. One for "HK & Macao Citizens"; one for "Visitors"; and one with no name, made up exclusively of newly arrived FDWs from southern Asia. On my second day in HK, a day before the bookshop presentation of the Passport with local poet Desmond Sham, there was a prime-time showing of a shoot-out in Manila (which I happened to see on a huge screen hanging outside a shopping centre), where a number of Hong Kong tourists, trapped on a bus kidnapped by a begrudged policeman, were accidentally killed by the police. This was followed by a spike in racist attacks upon Filipinos in the streets of Hong Kong, and in private homes.