HELPERS – Can an Elevator Be Racist? 65


We’ve all heard of The Giving Tree, but how about The Racist Lift? Can an elevator discriminate? One of the most common complaints from HK’s foreign domestic helper community is that of ‘day-to-day discrimination‘ – a phenomena which can often be difficult to prove. However, a video commissioned by the upcoming HK Helpers Campaign revealed how Causeway Bay Centre Shopping Arcade (near Victoria Park) is in the habit of charging HK$5 for the use of their elevator. Manned by two security guards and surrounded by ‘no photography’ signs, the fee is only applied on Sundays, when Indonesian maids pour into the area on their day off.

As Hong Wrong blog went to investigate, Stories Beyond Borders spoke to an activist for Open Door HK. Her organisation noted that the guards were highly inconsistent in their application of the fee, targeting those who can least afford it…

Starbucks at Alexandra House closes their bathroom to customers and non-customers on Sundays. And seating around the base of the IFC miraculously disappears each Sunday, only to reappear on Mondays…

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In some areas, the government itself deliberately prevent crowds from gathering, but at least the rule is applied consistently…

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via ‘Tanya in BNE’ on Flickr

In the US, as Jim Crow laws were deemed unconstitutional, many businesses attempted to sustain unequal access to services through similar convoluted means. Are HK’s businesses and service providers discriminating against a group of people or against a day of the week? If services cannot be applied consistently for all sections of the community, then perhaps they should be scrapped altogether?

Racist elevators?!

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Today’s exclusive feature forms part of a series leading to the launch of a separate ‘HK Helpers Campaign’ – a coalition of NGOs and activists united to spark debate and effect change for Foreign Domestic Helpers. If you are a fellow blogger or media organisation, our coverage/videos are available for re-syndication free-of-charge, please get in touch.


  • Andreas

    Unfortunately for enforcement of “fairness rules”, businesses presumably have the legal right to charge different people different prices and refuse service to anyone arbitrarily. Thus they can hide behind the law. Given that, at least from what I have observed, the average HKer seems to think discriminating against helpers is all right, businesses are not pressured into changing their behaviour. What is needed is a change in attitude among ordinary HKers. I’m unfortunately not optimistic about this happening any time soon.

    The IFC chairs would perhaps be a good target to start with, as IFC is owned by the MTR Corporation, which is 76% owned by the government, and thus in my somewhat optimistic mind more susceptible to public opinion.

    On the brighter side, there are doctors who charge domestic helpers less than ordinary patients. Kudos.

    • Tom

      Thanks. Though I understand IFC is owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land and Towngas?

      • Andreas

        I stand corrected. I thought the gigantic MTR logo meant something. More fool me. Have edited my comment.

        Then again Towngas is government owned so that might be something.

    • mz

      If they are discriminating on the basis of race, that is a different issue. If people who look, say, Indonesian, are being charged a fee when others are not, that goes well beyond the business’s legal rights to decide who they want to do business with. See various UN treaties to which HK is a signatory on ending racial discrimination.

  • Andreas

    Unfortunately for enforcement of “fairness rules”, businesses presumably have the legal right to charge different people different prices and refuse service to anyone arbitrarily. Thus they can hide behind the law. Given that, at least from what I have observed, the average HKer seems to think discriminating against helpers is all right, businesses are not pressured into changing their behaviour. What is needed is a change in attitude among ordinary HKers. I’m unfortunately not optimistic about this happening any time soon.

    The IFC chairs would perhaps be a good target to start with, as IFC is owned by the MTR Corporation, which is 76% owned by the government, and thus in my somewhat optimistic mind more susceptible to public opinion. EDIT: I was wrong about this. MTR does not own IFC.

    On the brighter side, there are doctors who charge domestic helpers less than ordinary patients. Kudos.

    • Tom

      Thanks. Though I understand IFC is owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land and Towngas?

      • Andreas

        I stand corrected. I thought the gigantic MTR logo meant something. More fool me. Have edited my comment.

        Then again Towngas is government owned so that might be something.

    • mz

      If they are discriminating on the basis of race, that is a different issue. If people who look, say, Indonesian, are being charged a fee when others are not, that goes well beyond the business’s legal rights to decide who they want to do business with. See various UN treaties to which HK is a signatory on ending racial discrimination.

  • Rich

    Can we see some footage of the racial profiling in action? Seeing something like that right in front of your eyes would be a great way to bring the conversation to the surface a little more

    • Tom

      Yes, we intended to capture this but it’s tricky when photography is banned, plus – they were quickly onto us last week due to a couple of test-runs… We will continue to revisit the site as I agree harder proof is needed.

  • Rich

    Can we see some footage of the racial profiling in action? Seeing something like that right in front of your eyes would be a great way to bring the conversation to the surface a little more

    • Tom

      Yes, we intended to capture this but it’s tricky when photography is banned, plus – they were quickly onto us last week due to a couple of test-runs… We will continue to revisit the site as I agree harder proof is needed.

  • chasiubao

    It is easy to cast judgement on these businesses from an outsiders perspective but seeing how domestic helpers flock to certain locations on weekends and completely abuse, pollute and take advantage of infrastructure and amenities. I can understand why businesses react the way they do. It really isn’t about discrimination it’s more about the lack of education and cultural differences that lead to this sort of behavior.

    I’m not sure if you’ve been by victoria park on a weekend but it is absolutely filthy. Sidewalks are packed with picnics and trash is everywhere! I live in Tai Hang so I unfortunately have to walk past this mess every weekend if I plan to go to Causeway Bay. So in case you haven’t been or haven’t noticed i’ll give you the 411..

    Victoria park is equipped with a huge grass lawn, hundreds of benches, public bathrooms, 4 cement football pitches. All of it gets covered with trash styrofoam lunch boxes, utensils, wrappers, foil, cardboard.. it is utterly disgusting. Helpers peeing and shitting in the trees.. clogged sinks and toilets… the park is literally destroyed every saturday and sunday only to be scrubbed spotless every sunday night and monday. Even with such a large park for them to congregate they still choose to take up all the sidewalks around causeway bay due to the proximity and convenience.

    Shutting down your amenities to prevent misuse is perfectly acceptable. It’s like a restaurant denying you water, seating, or bathroom use because you aren’t a customer. This is essentially the same thing. So when you look at high end malls like alexandra house and other armani building etc.. who only sell ultra high end goods It is totally understandable for them to shut these amenities to prevent misuse.

    • Dboy

      Whilst I agree with your comments, I feel that your use of “they” somewhat evades the point of the whole article and only adds to the essentialism of “them” as some sort of mass scourge. I can assure you that there are many places in HK where people leave ‘utterly disgusting’ messes; go to any LSCD BBQ site and I think you’ll see that locals are equally, if not more poorly adept at cleaning up after themselves (and to be quite frank I’m always surprised at how the weekly flash migration of domestic workers seems to disappear so effectively). I live near an industrial area where the businesses nearly all spill onto the pavements on a daily basis, using them as storage and manufacturing areas. Walk through any wet market after hours and those places are really dirty. Its certainly not just “them” that have a propensity for mess.

      My argument here is not to say that two wrongs make a right – indeed from a personal point of view I can see why messes are made in all of these places. The point that I mainly want to make is that in my experience discrimination usually happens when people only open their eyes to certain things and keep them closed to others.

      Also, re: “it’s more about the lack of education and cultural differences that lead to this sort of behavior”. Spot on, you’ve obviously not been educated about why they go to these areas, nor have any propensity to understand cultural difference.

    • MM

      It’s interesting that you suggest that an inherent “lack of education and cultural [difference]” exists. As of 2012, “By far the great majority (78 %) of the live-in DH had received secondary or matriculation education. Some 15 % had received tertiary education.” (http://www.statistics.gov.hk/pub/B79503FA1995XXXXB0100.pdf). 27% of HK’s general population had received tertiary education, and ~51% had received secondary education. (http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/docs/population.pdf). The figures aren’t so vastly different. Of course this is anecdotal but one of the recent posts on this site (http://hongwrong.com/litter/) shows an absolutely filthy park in Saikung, presumably left that way at least in part by (SHOCK, HORROR) people who are not foreign domestic helpers. It is impossible to comment except but anecdotally on this issue but I have definitely witnessed many non-FDHs in Hong Kong who take no care with their litter whatsoever– not so culturally different in this regard either.

      Now, let’s say that the people who maintain Victoria Park anticipate that there will be a large population of foreign domestic helpers enjoying the free public resource that is affordable for them on their low wage. Victoria Park anticipates the volume of people who will be in the park, based on past behavior. Victoria Park, however, does not provide infrastructure to support these people’s presence even though they are presumably a public resource that should be equally available to all people. Let’s say for the sake of argument that this isn’t to do with Victoria Park management’s unwillingness to accommodate foreign domestic helpers and reluctant acceptance of their use of the park but a lack of funding. Let’s say that Victoria Park applies for increased funding to accommodate this population (and it’s not an insubstantial population) of users and their funding request is rejected. Don’t you think that there is likely some sort of discrimination at play here? A framing of foreign domestic workers as unworthy or undesirable or ‘second class citizens’ (not that they’re eligible for citizenship or PR but HEY)? A reason behind the disinterest in providing sufficient infrastructure to accommodate a known population of users?

      Why shouldn’t foreign domestic workers use public spaces like sidewalks for their “proximity and convenience”? As you’ve just said, the park can be an unpleasant environment– because there isn’t proper infrastructure in place to sustain its users. Frankly, you’re sounding pretty bigoted.

      Yeah, it’s not great to leave trash on the ground but it’s a hell of a lot more understandable because when I walk past Victoria Park, I see bulging dumpsters, already crammed full of trash. It is not about a lack of “education” or “cultural difference”– it is about a lack of infrastructure, institutionalized discrimination and other (non-FDW) Hong Kongers’ racist and discriminatory treatment of foreign domestic workers.

      No, private business certainly isn’t legally required to provide services to foreign domestic helpers. That doesn’t make their policies any less exclusionary, however.

      • Andreas

        A reasonable plan would be for the management of Victoria Park to arrange for a number of extra garbage bins and porta-potties to be brought in on Sundays.

        • MM

          I certainly think so. It seems like a very basic solution to me. And yet the fact that this hasn’t been done should expose the unwelcoming attitude of Hong Kong’s public services and government toward FDWs. They want the cheap labor but they don’t want to offer proper support and fair treatment.

        • mz

          Exactly. The vast majority of people using the park certainly don’t want to be defecating in the bushes; they do so because of the lack of open and clean facilities available to them. Of course some toilets will clog when subjected to a large enough amount of use; the solution is not to blame the users, but to have staff to inspect and clean them, just like in any airport or sports stadium. The park is there for everybody to use; if a lot of people are going to use it, then its management should do its best to accommodate their needs. Then, once you have the adequate facilities, you can use additional signage to encourage people not to litter and the like. But anytime you have that many people, no matter what their ethnicity or how much money they have, using a public facility, there will be messes, and the management of that facility should figure out how to take care of it.

      • Dboy

        Couldn’t agree more with MM, I’m afraid chasiubao that you do seem like a pretty ill informed bigot.

    • Tom

      How did Tai Hang and Victoria Park look after Hong Kongers themselves descended on the area last Wed/Thur/Fri/Sat? Spick and spam?

      See also: http://hongwrong.com/litter/ re: local BBQ sites.

      • Andreas

        Unfortunately littering is endemic everywhere. It is just not very noticeable in the city since the street sweepers are so efficient. Walk 100 meters along a country park hiking trail and you’ll find plastic bags, tissues, styrofoam containers, plastic bottles. Very sad that Hong Kongers are so spoiled with greenery right at their doorstep, and yet cannot carry their litter home.

  • chasiubao

    It is easy to cast judgement on these businesses from an outsiders perspective but seeing how domestic helpers flock to certain locations on weekends and completely abuse, pollute and take advantage of infrastructure and amenities. I can understand why businesses react the way they do. It really isn’t about discrimination it’s more about the lack of education and cultural differences that lead to this sort of behavior.

    I’m not sure if you’ve been by victoria park on a weekend but it is absolutely filthy. Sidewalks are packed with picnics and trash is everywhere! I live in Tai Hang so I unfortunately have to walk past this mess every weekend if I plan to go to Causeway Bay. So in case you haven’t been or haven’t noticed i’ll give you the 411..

    Victoria park is equipped with a huge grass lawn, hundreds of benches, public bathrooms, 4 cement football pitches. All of it gets covered with trash styrofoam lunch boxes, utensils, wrappers, foil, cardboard.. it is utterly disgusting. Helpers peeing and shitting in the trees.. clogged sinks and toilets… the park is literally destroyed every saturday and sunday only to be scrubbed spotless every sunday night and monday. Even with such a large park for them to congregate they still choose to take up all the sidewalks around causeway bay due to the proximity and convenience.

    Shutting down your amenities to prevent misuse is perfectly acceptable. It’s like a restaurant denying you water, seating, or bathroom use because you aren’t a customer. This is essentially the same thing. So when you look at high end malls like alexandra house and other armani building etc.. who only sell ultra high end goods It is totally understandable for them to shut these amenities to prevent misuse.

    • Guest

      Whilst I agree with your comments, I feel that your use of “they” somewhat evades the point of the whole article and only adds to the essentialism of “them” as some sort of mass scourge. I can assure you that there are many places in HK where people leave ‘utterly disgusting’ messes; go to any LSCD BBQ site and I think you’ll see that locals are equally, if not more poorly adept at cleaning up after themselves (and to be quite frank I’m always surprised at how the weekly flash migration of domestic workers seems to disappear so effectively). I live near an industrial area where the businesses nearly all spill onto the pavements on a daily basis, using them as storage and manufacturing areas. Walk through any wet market after hours and those places are really dirty. Its certainly not just “them” that have a propensity for mess.

      My argument here is not to say that two wrongs make a right – indeed from a personal point of view I can see why messes are made in all of these places. The point that I mainly want to make is that in my experience discrimination usually happens when people only open their eyes to certain things and keep them closed to others.

      Also, re: “it’s more about the lack of education and cultural differences that lead to this sort of behavior”. Spot on, you’ve obviously not been educated about why they go to these areas, nor have any propensity to understand cultural difference.

    • MM

      It’s interesting that you suggest that an inherent “lack of education and cultural [difference]” exists. As of 2012, “By far the great majority (78 %) of the live-in DH had received secondary or matriculation education. Some 15 % had received tertiary education.” (http://www.statistics.gov.hk/pub/B79503FA1995XXXXB0100.pdf). 27% of HK’s general population had received tertiary education, and ~51% had received secondary education. (http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/docs/population.pdf). The figures aren’t so vastly different. Of course this is anecdotal but one of the recent posts on this site (http://hongwrong.com/litter/) shows an absolutely filthy park in Saikung, presumably left that way at least in part by (SHOCK, HORROR) people who are not foreign domestic helpers. It is impossible to comment except but anecdotally on this issue but I have definitely witnessed many non-FDHs in Hong Kong who take no care with their litter whatsoever– not so culturally different in this regard either.

      Now, let’s say that the people who maintain Victoria Park anticipate that there will be a large population of foreign domestic helpers enjoying the free public resource that is affordable for them on their low wage. Victoria Park anticipates the volume of people who will be in the park, based on past behavior. Victoria Park, however, does not provide infrastructure to support these people’s presence even though they are presumably a public resource that should be equally available to all people. Let’s say for the sake of argument that this isn’t to do with Victoria Park management’s unwillingness to accommodate foreign domestic helpers and reluctant acceptance of their use of the park but a lack of funding. Let’s say that Victoria Park applies for increased funding to accommodate this population (and it’s not an insubstantial population) of users and their funding request is rejected. Don’t you think that there is likely some sort of discrimination at play here? A framing of foreign domestic workers as unworthy or undesirable or ‘second class citizens’ (not that they’re eligible for citizenship or PR but HEY)? A reason behind the disinterest in providing sufficient infrastructure to accommodate a known population of users?

      Why shouldn’t foreign domestic workers use public spaces like sidewalks for their “proximity and convenience”? As you’ve just said, the park can be an unpleasant environment– because there isn’t proper infrastructure in place to sustain its users. Frankly, you’re sounding pretty bigoted.

      Yeah, it’s not great to leave trash on the ground but it’s a hell of a lot more understandable because when I walk past Victoria Park, I see bulging dumpsters, already crammed full of trash. It is not about a lack of “education” or “cultural difference”– it is about a lack of infrastructure, institutionalized discrimination and other (non-FDW) Hong Kongers’ racist and discriminatory treatment of foreign domestic workers.

      No, private business certainly isn’t legally required to provide services to foreign domestic helpers. That doesn’t make their policies any less exclusionary, however.

      • Andreas

        A reasonable plan would be for the management of Victoria Park to arrange for a number of extra garbage bins and porta-potties to be brought in on Sundays.

        • MM

          I certainly think so. It seems like a very basic solution to me. And yet the fact that this hasn’t been done should expose the unwelcoming attitude of Hong Kong’s public services and government toward FDWs. They want the cheap labor but they don’t want to offer proper support and fair treatment.

        • mz

          Exactly. The vast majority of people using the park certainly don’t want to be defecating in the bushes; they do so because of the lack of open and clean facilities available to them. Of course some toilets will clog when subjected to a large enough amount of use; the solution is not to blame the users, but to have staff to inspect and clean them, just like in any airport or sports stadium. The park is there for everybody to use; if a lot of people are going to use it, then its management should do its best to accommodate their needs. Then, once you have the adequate facilities, you can use additional signage to encourage people not to litter and the like. But anytime you have that many people, no matter what their ethnicity or how much money they have, using a public facility, there will be messes, and the management of that facility should figure out how to take care of it.

      • Dboy

        Couldn’t agree more with MM, I’m afraid chasiubao that you do seem like a pretty ill informed bigot.

    • Tom

      How did Tai Hang and Victoria Park look after Hong Kongers themselves descended on the area last Wed/Thur/Fri/Sat? Spick and spam?

      See also: http://hongwrong.com/litter/ re: local BBQ sites.

      • Andreas

        Unfortunately littering is endemic everywhere. It is just not very noticeable in the city since the street sweepers are so efficient. Walk 100 meters along a country park hiking trail and you’ll find plastic bags, tissues, styrofoam containers, plastic bottles. Very sad that Hong Kongers are so spoiled with greenery right at their doorstep, and yet cannot carry their litter home.

  • Mike

    The premise of this post (allegedly being more likely to charge one group of people for use of a lift), I also don’t think is entirely unreasonable (and also based on the evidence presented in the article it’s not really substantiated).

    If I walk into a high-end shop in Hongkong, I don’t get the same treatment as, say, a wealthy-looking mandarin speaker. Perhaps I should say this is discrimination, because there is some kind of profiling involved in who gets the A+ service and who doesn’t. This example isn’t exactly the same, because I’m not given the option of paying for the service (which costs the business) which others get free. Go to a car dealership or an estate agent anywhere in the world, and the agent will judge how likely you are to buy and treat you accordingly. On the flip side, if a business doesn’t give me the service I want (and I am serious about buying something) then they loose out.

    As an aside; in the UK, almost all city-centre Starbucks shops close their loo’s to anyone who isn’t a customer (usually a passcode system is used). It’s an inconvenience for some people I imagine, but I don’t think many would complain if this policy was only applicable on weekends. The point here is that this policy is only used in areas where the loo’s are likely to be abused to the point it may have an impact on paying customers. In towns or away from the shops, the loo’s are usually open to anyone who walks in. So if it’s okay to close your loo’s in areas with potentially a lot of non-paying users, why isn’t okay to do it at times when non-paying users are likely? Maybe neither are okay, but if I ran a coffee shop, I think I would do the same – that’s not based on race, simply as a business you want to keep the experience enjoyable for customers.

    Customers who are more likely to spend get preferential treatment. And then the rich buy more. You can’t expect businesses to give that treatment to everyone (including me)!

    • Tom

      It’s not quite that they’re charging – they can impose a HK$50 fee, but it has to be consistent – not just when a certain ethnic group pour into the area. The bathroom analogy doesn’t quite work, as it’s a rule which is applied uniformly.

      • Mike

        “Starbucks at Alexandra House closes their bathroom to customers and non-customers on Sundays.” — surely that’s uniform too? I wasn’t comparing Starbucks to lifts, I was comparing Starbucks to Starbucks..

        I was comparing the inconsistency everywhere in potential-customer hospitality with the lift.

        • Andreas

          Tom’s point t is that some places (a lot of places!) discriminate against a particular group (helpers). Yes, there are places that seemingly discriminate against everyone, but it is obvious that since they close off facilities on Sundays only it is to avoid helpers coming in.

          On a side note, Filipinas who are not helpers tend to dress up in HK every time they leave the house. That way they won’t be treated as helpers.

          • Mike

            They’re “discriminating” against poor people. They don’t want to spend their resources on people who they know will not buy anything. It’s not unique to FDH’s.

          • William Fitzgerald

            Mike, they’re discriminating against a group based on their racial profile.

            This is counter to the Hong Kong Basic Law there is a Race Discrimination Ordinance that states:

            “In any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision of this Ordinance, a person (“the discriminator”) discriminates against another person if—

            (a) on the ground of the race of that other person, the discriminator treats that other person less favourably than the discriminator treats or would treat other persons”

            link: http://www.hklii.hk/eng/hk/legis/ord/602/s4.html

            What the Shopping Center is doing is not only wrong, it’s also illegal.

          • Mike

            Race is correlated with the chances of being a FDH (of course it must be, as only certain nationalities can be FDH’s!). The government does not allow FDH’s to get PR. Looking at the demographics of those excluded from the 7 year rule, one might conclude that this is a race issue. Perhaps (in the governments case) it is, but just because most people that are being told to pay to use the lift are from two countries doesn’t make it directly a race issue.

            If I discriminated against the poor here in HK (and evaluated everyone who used my lift factually, ie I actually knew how much they were worth) then you might think I was discriminating against the elderly and probably also Philipinos Indonesians. The truth would be that all I had done is selected the poorest people who came by. I don’t believe that these businesses are racist in nature, I think they want customers rather than window shoppers who can’t afford to buy anything. It is the case that the groups they don’t want are those with the lowest salaries and they are mostly the elderly and FDH in Hongkong. The correlation between FDH and race is in part created by the government, and I think that accusing businesses of racial profiling while quoting the Race Discrimination Ordinance needs more evidence to show that they really are targeting certain ethnic groups rather than just those they suppose to be poor.

          • Andreas

            Just to clarify some nomenclature:

            1. Humans are all the same race. We may be different ethnicities but since we can interbreed we are all the same race. Of course HK law seems a bit behind the times terminology-wise, but the point there is that you cannot discriminate against any other human.

            2. Contrary to common belief, very few nationalities cannot become FDH. Not becoming a FDH is limited to Chinese residents of the Mainland, Macao and Taiwan, and nationals of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nepal and Vietnam.

            With that out of the way, I do understand that businesses discriminate against low income earners or whatnot. My problem is when they assume that someone who looks Filipino or Indonesian is poor. I’ve seen this happen on numerous occasions, even when the person targeted would have had no problem paying the required amount. What happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt? For that matter, why do the above mentioned lift operators assume that Chinese have money but Filipinos and Indonesians do not?

          • Mike

            ‘Very few nationalities’, from a global perspective perhaps, but when you consider the neighbouring countries it turns out that actually you have just listed quite a significant population (even globally China makes up a significant number!).

            Anyway, my point is you have to show me that they assume all people who look Filipino or Indonesian are discriminated against. Let’s doa some tests, find some Filipinos/Indonesians wearing expensive clothes and see if they are charged for the lift.

          • Joseph Matsuura

            Exactly!

          • Edwin Pun

            That is because Filipino helpers tend to think of every Filipina as a helper. Many times my wife (if she is not dress up) will be asked if our daughter is her ward or if with me, whether I am her employer.

  • Mike

    The premise of this post (allegedly being more likely to charge one group of people for use of a lift), I also don’t think is entirely unreasonable (and also based on the evidence presented in the article it’s not really substantiated).

    If I walk into a high-end shop in Hongkong, I don’t get the same treatment as, say, a wealthy-looking mandarin speaker. Perhaps I should say this is discrimination, because there is some kind of profiling involved in who gets the A+ service and who doesn’t. This example isn’t exactly the same, because I’m not given the option of paying for the service (which costs the business) which others get free. Go to a car dealership or an estate agent anywhere in the world, and the agent will judge how likely you are to buy and treat you accordingly. On the flip side, if a business doesn’t give me the service I want (and I am serious about buying something) then they loose out.

    As an aside; in the UK, almost all city-centre Starbucks shops close their loo’s to anyone who isn’t a customer (usually a passcode system is used). It’s an inconvenience for some people I imagine, but I don’t think many would complain if this policy was only applicable on weekends. The point here is that this policy is only used in areas where the loo’s are likely to be abused to the point it may have an impact on paying customers. In towns or away from the shops, the loo’s are usually open to anyone who walks in. So if it’s okay to close your loo’s in areas with potentially a lot of non-paying users, why isn’t okay to do it at times when non-paying users are likely? Maybe neither are okay, but if I ran a coffee shop, I think I would do the same – that’s not based on race, simply as a business you want to keep the experience enjoyable for customers.

    Customers who are more likely to spend get preferential treatment. And then the rich buy more. You can’t expect businesses to give that treatment to everyone (including me)!

    • Tom

      It’s not quite that they’re charging – they can impose a HK$50 fee, but it has to be consistent – not just when a certain ethnic group pour into the area. The bathroom analogy doesn’t quite work, as it’s a rule which is applied uniformly.

      • Mike

        “Starbucks at Alexandra House closes their bathroom to customers and non-customers on Sundays.” — surely that’s uniform too? I wasn’t comparing Starbucks to lifts, I was comparing Starbucks to Starbucks..

        I was comparing the inconsistency everywhere in potential-customer hospitality with the lift. Businesses are right to use their experience to judge who is and who isn’t likely to bring in custom. It’s up to them to decide who gets the pre-payment perks. They make the right calls, they make more money as those that are treated well spend more. They make the wrong calls and they make less money. I don’t see how this is different to me going into a Ferrari shop and not being offered a seat and a whisky. Yeh it’s a shame they can tell I can’t be seriously thinking about buying, but their experience is correct – they save time money and resources by discriminating against me. And as a business that makes them more successful.

        • Andreas

          Tom’s point t is that some places (a lot of places!) discriminate against a particular group (helpers). Yes, there are places that seemingly discriminate against everyone, but it is obvious that since they close off facilities on Sundays only it is to avoid helpers coming in.

          On a side note, Filipinas who are not helpers tend to dress up in HK every time they leave the house. That way they won’t be treated as helpers.

          • Mike

            They’re “discriminating” against poor people. They don’t want to spend their resources on people who they know will not buy anything. It’s not unique to FDH’s.

            I don’t think this is a race thing, or even specifically anti-FDH. It’s just that on a Sunday, there are a lot of poorer people (many FDH, who may be easily identified as unable to buy things) who come to these places and that’s the day businesses are most willing to risk not giving hospitality out. It’s a shame, but it’s business, and they need to make money.

          • William Fitzgerald

            Mike, they’re discriminating against a group based on their racial profile.

            This is counter to the Hong Kong Basic Law there is a Race Discrimination Ordinance that states:

            “In any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision of this Ordinance, a person (“the discriminator”) discriminates against another person if—

            (a) on the ground of the race of that other person, the discriminator treats that other person less favourably than the discriminator treats or would treat other persons”

            link: http://www.hklii.hk/eng/hk/legis/ord/602/s4.html

            What the Shopping Center is doing is not only wrong, it’s also illegal.

          • Mike

            Race is correlated with the chances of being a FDH (of course it must be, as only certain nationalities can be FDH’s!). The government does not allow FDH’s to get PR. Looking at the demographics of those excluded from the 7 year rule, one might conclude that this is a race issue. Perhaps (in the governments case) it is, but just because most people that are being told to pay to use the lift are from two countries doesn’t make it directly a race issue.

            If I discriminated against the poor here in HK (and evaluated everyone who used my lift factually, ie I actually knew how much they were worth rather than guessing based on appearance) then you might think I was discriminating against the elderly and probably also Filipinos & Indonesians. The truth would be that all I had done is selected the poorest people who came by. I don’t believe that these businesses are racist in nature, I think they want customers rather than window shoppers who can’t afford to buy anything. It is the case that the groups they don’t want are those with the lowest salaries and they are mostly the elderly and FDH in Hongkong. The correlation between FDH and race is in part created by the government, and I think that accusing businesses of racial profiling while quoting the Race Discrimination Ordinance needs more evidence to show that they really are targeting certain ethnic groups rather than just those they suppose to be poor.

          • Andreas

            Just to clarify some nomenclature:

            1. Humans are all the same race. We may be different ethnicities but since we can interbreed we are all the same race. Of course HK law seems a bit behind the times terminology-wise, but the point there is that you cannot discriminate against any other human.

            2. Contrary to common belief, very few nationalities cannot become FDH. Not becoming a FDH is limited to Chinese residents of the Mainland, Macao and Taiwan, and nationals of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nepal and Vietnam.

            With that out of the way, I do understand that businesses discriminate against low income earners or whatnot. My problem is when they assume that someone who looks Filipino or Indonesian is poor. I’ve seen this happen on numerous occasions, even when the person targeted would have had no problem paying the required amount. What happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt? For that matter, why do the above mentioned lift operators assume that Chinese have money but Filipinos and Indonesians do not?

          • Mike

            ‘Very few nationalities’, from a global perspective perhaps, but when you consider the neighbouring countries it turns out that actually you have just listed quite a significant population (even globally China makes up a significant number!).

            Anyway, my point is you have to show me that they assume all people who look Filipino or Indonesian are discriminated against. Let’s doa some tests, find some Filipinos/Indonesians wearing expensive clothes and see if they are charged for the lift.

          • Joseph Lau

            Exactly!

          • Edwin Pun

            That is because Filipino helpers tend to think of every Filipina as a helper. Many times my wife (if she is not dress up) will be asked if our daughter is her ward or if with me, whether I am her employer.

  • Tanya Hart

    How about immigration returning to HK, when us residents and permanent residents have a spiffy efficient queue about 5-15 people long, and the Foreign Domestic Workers (or maybe all Migrant Worker visa’d ID card holders) have their very own queue, about 10 times as long, and further down the end. Just one booth. I can’t see a single logical factor at work here besides the wisdom of letting people know their place. Or maybe it’s a sweet way of letting them draw out their holidays by an extra 20 minutes? When I’ve travelled with my helper, I’ve used the ‘keeping the family together’ argument (always needed as parents have different passports) and there was no problem stamping through the residents queue. Same stamps, same computers. But Dit said it’s ALWAYS like that and sometimes incredibly long.

    • Mike

      Is it a stamp issue? I guess FDH need their passports stamped, so have to queue and can’t use the spiffy machines?

      • Tanya Hart

        I travel with kids who don’t have cards yet (have to be 11yo i think). So we are all queuing in the book-stampers section. Helpers have ID cards and thumbs, so I’m not sure why or whether they need stamps. But the point is, their queue has one booth and a looooong line, then there’s a bunch of empty booths, then there’s a bunch of other booths, like, 6-8, with us middle class worker-breeders in our nice short queues. Don’t tell me it’s a mis-calculation in the most efficient airport in the world.

        • Mike

          I’m also not able to use the machines (although I have more than enough thumbs & a card) for some reason they need to abuse my passport taking up half (or a whole) page each time I enter for an enormous visa stamp that means I need a jumbo passport 🙁 maybe if they let me use the machines then the extra booths could be used for FDH 🙂 everyone would be smiling!

  • Tanya Hart

    How about immigration returning to HK, when us residents and permanent residents have a spiffy efficient queue about 5-15 people long, and the Foreign Domestic Workers (or maybe all Migrant Worker visa’d ID card holders) have their very own queue, about 10 times as long, and further down the end. Just one booth. I can’t see a single logical factor at work here besides the wisdom of letting people know their place. Or maybe it’s a sweet way of letting them draw out their holidays by an extra 20 minutes? When I’ve travelled with my helper, I’ve used the ‘keeping the family together’ argument (always needed as parents have different passports) and there was no problem stamping through the residents queue. Same stamps, same computers. But Dit said it’s ALWAYS like that and sometimes incredibly long.

    • Mike

      Is it a stamp issue? I guess FDH need their passports stamped, so have to queue and can’t use the spiffy machines?

      • Tanya Hart

        I travel with kids who don’t have cards yet (have to be 11yo i think). So we are all queuing in the book-stampers section. Helpers have ID cards and thumbs, so I’m not sure why or whether they need stamps. But the point is, their queue has one booth and a looooong line, then there’s a bunch of empty booths, then there’s a bunch of other booths, like, 6-8, with us middle class worker-breeders in our nice short queues. Don’t tell me it’s a mis-calculation in the most efficient airport in the world.

        • Mike

          I’m also not able to use the machines (although I have more than enough thumbs & a card) for some reason they need to abuse my passport taking up half (or a whole) page each time I enter for an enormous visa stamp that means I need a jumbo passport 🙁 maybe if they let me use the machines then the extra booths could be used for FDH 🙂 everyone would be smiling!

  • Joseph Matsuura

    As a Filipino Hong Kong resident that grew up in Hong Kong during the 90’s, I can personally attest that this discrimination issue is not black and white. I agree that to claim that this is racial in nature, requires a heavy burden of proof in part of claimant. I understand that subjectively, they feel it is about their race. But basing on my experience,most of discrimination that takes place in Hong Kong is about social standing with a kiss of race to boot.

    Most of the racial slurs directed to me are from less educated peeps in Hong Kong. (I am not generalizing here) Majority of Hong Kong people that I interacted with(middle education) have actually treated me better than my countrymen.This is not to say that all educated ones are not racist, i attended an affluent international school in Hong Kong and some bullies made the issue that I was an anomaly there because DH’s cannot afford the book fees alone.

    All i am saying is, majority of discriminatory tendencies in Hong Kong are economic in nature.( I have friends that will treat me with equal respect but I was appalled on how they treat their Filipina maids in front of me.Heck, some of my Filipino Hong Kong resident friends discriminate on Filipina maids.)

    My take on this is that (please share if your thoughts if you disagree)this is the result of the ugly repercussions of capitalism. The pursuit of money and its necessity is so ingrained in most of the resident’s brain to the point that losers of the money race(poor people)are lower and are willing to take any shit from them because the poor are in survival mode and are less likely to do anything about it. The poor has a higher toleration for maltreatment because they will do anything just to hold on to their jobs and they should be thankful for the job.

    In regards to the PR for DH’s there is definitely a dimension of racial,xenophobia mongering and nationalistic sentiments that led to the rejection of their PR. That case has been stalled by the government for many years before it was heard, The disqualificaion of PR to DH’s is stated in the immigration laws but in Hong Kong law it is so clear that they have the right( Hong Kong law is superior to Immigration laws when challenged) Hong Kong leaders basically overridden the rule of law in that one due to political inconvenience.

    Anyway, there is no way this establishment would have done this during the rule of the Brits as people are a lot more sensitive to occurrence of racism at that time,because the Chinese locals were also protecting themselves from racist whites and now they are on top of the food chain.another difference is that the ugly head of neo-nationalism that has been showing up in Hong Kong recently combined with Hong Kong’s identity crisis has desensitized Hong Kong people from racist tendencies and in the midst of political uncertainties minorities are easy targets -irrationally of course.

    By the way, I am working in the mainland right now and despite my education and skills,all chinese firms refuse to pay me equally compared to my fairer counterparts. I work more hours for less than 3 times of wages, I am the shock absorber when something goes wrong and my chinese employers shifts from A-hole mode to nice guy mode in 2 seconds flat when talking to white employees. I can go on typing to try to explain why. But these aresure-racism in mainland china is fascinatingly special it deserves its own case study.racism thrives in ignorance and Hong Kong at least has some laws and organizations to counter it.

  • Joseph Lau

    As a Filipino Hong Kong resident that grew up in Hong Kong during the 90’s, I can personally attest that this discrimination issue is not black and white. I agree that to claim that this is racial in nature, requires a heavy burden of proof in part of claimant. I understand that subjectively, they feel it is about their race. But basing on my experience,most of discrimination that takes place in Hong Kong is about social standing with a kiss of race to boot.

    Most of the racial slurs directed to me are from less educated peeps in Hong Kong. (I am not generalizing here) Majority of Hong Kong people that I interacted with(middle education) have actually treated me better than my countrymen.This is not to say that all educated ones are not racist, i attended an affluent international school in Hong Kong and some bullies made the issue that I was an anomaly there because DH’s cannot afford the book fees alone.

    All i am saying is, majority of discriminatory tendencies in Hong Kong are economic in nature.( I have friends that will treat me with equal respect but I was appalled on how they treat their Filipina maids in front of me.Heck, some of my Filipino Hong Kong resident friends discriminate on Filipina maids.)

    My take on this is that (please share if your thoughts if you disagree)this is the result of the ugly repercussions of capitalism. The pursuit of money and its necessity is so ingrained in most of the resident’s brain to the point that losers of the money race(poor people)are lower and are willing to take any shit from them because the poor are in survival mode and are less likely to do anything about it. The poor has a higher toleration for maltreatment because they will do anything just to hold on to their jobs and they should be thankful for the job.

    In regards to the PR for DH’s there is definitely a dimension of racial,xenophobia mongering and nationalistic sentiments that led to the rejection of their PR. That case has been stalled by the government for many years before it was heard, The disqualificaion of PR to DH’s is stated in the immigration laws but in Hong Kong law it is so clear that they have the right( Hong Kong law is superior to Immigration laws when challenged) Hong Kong leaders basically overridden the rule of law in that one due to political inconvenience.

    Anyway, there is no way this establishment would have done this during the rule of the Brits as people are a lot more sensitive to occurrence of racism at that time,because the Chinese locals were also protecting themselves from racist whites and now they are on top of the food chain.another difference is that the ugly head of neo-nationalism that has been showing up in Hong Kong recently combined with Hong Kong’s identity crisis has desensitized Hong Kong people from racist tendencies and in the midst of political uncertainties minorities are easy targets -irrationally of course.

    By the way, I am working in the mainland right now and despite my education and skills,all chinese firms refuse to pay me equally compared to my fairer counterparts. I work more hours for less than 3 times of wages, I am the shock absorber when something goes wrong and my chinese employers shifts from A-hole mode to nice guy mode in 2 seconds flat when talking to white employees. I can go on typing to try to explain why. But these aresure-racism in mainland china is fascinatingly special it deserves its own case study.racism thrives in ignorance and Hong Kong at least has some laws and organizations to counter it.

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