The Philippine flag

THE Shenzhen Daily reports (March 9, 18, 23) about the proliferation of illegal Chinese housekeeping agencies in the city aroused concern from the expatriate community. Han Ximin’s feature story titled “Filipino women, victims of illegal recruitment,” published on March 9, told of the lives of two Filipino victims of illegal recruitment in China, how they escaped the abusive employers and the struggle to recover their passports. The article also discussed the obvious arrogance of the recruiter Tracy Lu, who acknowledged the fact she is “doing illegal business” and its “foolish to say legal or illegal” to her. I believe China is governed by laws. But if not for mere braggadocio, she wouldn’t have smeared the respectable immigration and police officers, who she claims never warned her about her involvement in illegal business. Additionally, Lu, who claims she wants to be a “rich person,” slandered the president of the Philippines, for what she alleged as the latter’s inability to provide adequate jobs for Filipinos. The jobless rate in the Philippines does not justify or give Tracy Lu or any other housekeeping agency the right to abuse and exploit people for personal gain. Indeed, Lu is the epitome of the worst type of person in modern Chinese society. A further report penned by Li Jing, titled “15 illegal Filipino domestic helpers questioned” (March 18), detailed the cases of 15 women caught in another Chinese agent’s office in Futian, who the police believed to be working illegally in Shenzhen because they could not present valid work permits. However, the reporter failed to mention that, aside from the employer’s 10,000 yuan agency recruitment fee, the Chinese agent also charged the Filipino worker between 9,000 – 14,000 yuan — a whopping 20,000 yuan, tax free! This saga illustrates the vulnerability of the expatriate community in China. First, it exposes the weakness of Chinese law in curbing the influx of foreign household workers, undermining their safety. Second, it shows how Chinese illegal recruiters have taken advantage of the rapid economic growth of China. Finally, it shows the weakness of Filipinas in safeguarding their rights in China, given the fact they are illegally working here. These stories highlight the abuses committed against nationals of neighboring Asian countries. The alleged physical abuse experienced by Rona Mayuga, a Filipino, at the hands of her Chinese employer (March 9), is just one such case. The Filipino community could either languish in the mindset that the Philippines is a nation of servants, “experienced housekeepers and fluent in English,” to quote Li Jing, or live a fuller life of honest labor. Filipinos approach their craft with dignity and pride. China is home to top notch Filipino architects, interior designers, leading hoteliers, restaurateurs, designers, engineers, lawyers, teachers, researchers and writers. The Filipinos in this country are a fun-loving, respectful, witty and peaceful people. They can smile even in the midst of misery. Widely talented in music, Filipino bands are often considered the life of the party. Coming from a country with a GDP per capita of about 3,300 USD (1999 estimate), the Filipinos strive to be self-sustaining, never too willing to be beholden to mercy for survival. Since the 1980s Hong Kong has been a top destination for Filipino professional workers in the fields of business, accounting, banking, engineering and legal profession. Hong Kong is also home to more than 200,000 Filipino domestic workers. But as China’s economic miracle quickly catches up, Shenzhen is steadily attracting foreigners, including numerous Filipino professionals. But due to Chinese mainland’s “closed-door policy” on foreign domestic help, many Filipinos, Indonesians, Thai and Malaysians are currently barred by Chinese law from taking advantage of the domestic helper job market which holds so much promise.