A Time to Mourn, A Time to Reflect

Sadness and Resolution in Hong Kong

The main body of this post is a modified version of an update published earlier today on A Death in Hong Kong. Anyone reading Greetings Earthlings! who would like to know more about the Discovery Bay community’s response to Vicenta Flores’ death can go there – it’s currently being updated twice a day. I’ve added further personal commentary here.

Memorial Service for Vicenta Flores

A Moment of PrayerVicenta Flores’ memorial service was held last night, 21 April, at the Discovery Bay International School on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. Led by Father Henry Cabral of the Discovery Bay Catholic church and Sister Aida of the Catholic Centre in Hong Kong’s Central district, the service reflected on Vicenta’s life and the many difficulties faced by Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong.

Vicenta’s sister Irene spoke briefly in Tagalog, offering her thanks to those in attendance. She also asked anyone with any information about her sister’s disappearance and death to come forward. Her grief was obvious, and she soon broke down crying for the first time since she arrived in Hong Kong.

Here’s a brief video clip from the beginning of the service, as people were still coming in. The crowd eventually spilled out the hall doors.

The South China Morning Post reported on the service this morning, and included Father Henry’s comments on the degrading and dehumanising way domestic helpers are often treated here in Hong Kong. He also expressed his reluctance in saying that, but the necessity that it should be said.

After the service, migrant group representatives mentioned plans for a rally to express indignation about the handling of this specific case, and of Filipino migrant workers in general. As I mentioned yesterday, two other deaths have been treated lightly this month alone. Activists will assemble in the Admiralty district on Sunday 27 April, with a meeting point in Discovery Bay as well.

Everyone wants to see justice done. Perhaps even more importantly we want to see justice being done as the investigation into Vicenta’s mysterious death proceeds. Plain clothes police were again making inquiries in Discovery Bay last night, which indicates that further action is being taken.

A press release to that effect would be helpful.

Reflections a Day Later

Diversity Tiles, by Stephanie Asher, with Creative Commons licenceLike many cities fighting to attract investment and tourism dollars these days, Hong Kong has a brand and an image. This is Asia’s World City, or so the slogan goes. But take away the money and the Hong Kong government has a hard time adjusting to what being part of the world really means.

The painfully slow process of dragging an anti-racial-discrimination bill into the light of day will not result in penalties for public displays of racism, will not affect key government officials. There should be little wonder that minority groups here are worried about a range of things – their social isolation and their safety included. Sure, some have sufficient resources and standing to let things slide. But not Filipinos.

These things must change.

2 Responses to A Time to Mourn, A Time to Reflect

  1. alan jefferies says:

    Hi Mike

    Thanks for your great work in keeping this issue on the front burner.

    I understand this present case is centered around the Filipino domestic helper community but let’s not forget the 100,000 plus Indonesians who are in the same boat. They are, it could be argued, even more vulnerable than the Filipinos because they are less established here.

    It’s often said that a society can be judged by how it treats it poorest, it’s most disadvantaged and it’s most vulnerable. By that standard Hong Kong society has failed miserably.

    The treatment of domestic helpers in Hong Kong is nothing short of appalling. This treatment is administered by the Hong Kong SAR Government and enforced by the Labour Department, and the police.

    The fact that the Chinese language press has by an large ignored this story speaks volumes.

  2. Mike Poole says:

    Sorry for this very late reply Alan! Yes, you’re correct about Indonesians, and I’ve tried to mention the various types of people who are domestic helpers here as often as possible in other posts.

    To what you have written all I can add is this: judgement should be based not only on how a society treats its poorest, but also how it creates its poorest.

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