Tests for helpers not discriminatory, says EOC chair

The head of Hong Kong’s equality watchdog said on Monday the government’s requirement for all foreign domestic workers to be tested for coronavirus isn’t discriminatory – as differential treatment is allowed for measures aiming to protect public health.

Besides ordering the city’s 370,000 migrant domestic workers to be tested by May 9, the government said it will also require them to be vaccinated in order to secure visa renewals.

Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Ricky Chu’s comments on Commercial Radio came after a migrant workers’ advocacy group lodged a formal complaint with the watchdog.

Members of the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body also demanded an apology from Labour and Welfare Secretary Law Chi-kwong, who on Friday said domestic workers who don’t want the vaccine can choose not to work in Hong Kong.

A spokeswoman for the group, Sringatin, said that there had been anger towards migrant domestic workers since the government’s announcement on Friday, and many helpers were worried about being stigmatised by locals.

Sringatin said some domestic workers had reported being told by employers that they couldn’t return home unless they got tested.

“The threat is from the government but as well as the employer just follow the instruction from the government because they also don’t want to lose the domestic worker,” she said.

She said the watchdog will respond to their complaint within three days. However, given the May 9 deadline for Covid tests, she will ask members to file individual complaints on Tuesday.

But Chu has already said that any measures aimed at protecting public health – including epidemic-prevention measures – are reasonable and necessary even if they cause differential treatment.

He said that a measure may violate the city’s Race Discrimination Ordinance if it targets a specific race – but in this case, the measures only target a specific profession.

“Any anti-pandemic measure or even the vaccination itself represents differential treatment,” Chu said, after being asked if the measures should be imposed on other foreign workers in Hong Kong for the sake of fairness.

“Practically, it is extremely difficult to come up with a measure that is not differential.”
Last updated: 2021-05-03 HKT 17:45