Date
24 August 2019
Accepting a petition letter, lawmaker Eunice Yung (far right) said she is “really sorry” if her remarks made domestic helpers feel disrespected. Photo: RTHK News video
Accepting a petition letter, lawmaker Eunice Yung (far right) said she is “really sorry” if her remarks made domestic helpers feel disrespected. Photo: RTHK News video

Lawmaker ‘sorry’ after backlash over remarks on foreign maids

A newbie lawmaker from the pro-establishment camp has offered an apology of sorts for comments on foreign domestic workers that observers have labeled as being “racist” and “discriminatory”.

Eunice Yung Hoi-yan, a member of the New People’s Party, said she did not mean to offend anyone when she made some remarks last week on problems caused by foreign maids working in the city. 

Facing a backlash from worker groups, Yung said she is sorry if her remarks made domestic helpers feel disrespected, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The words of regret came after hundreds of domestic helpers took to the streets on Sunday in a show of protest against Yung after the lawmaker made some gratuitous comments against foreign workers on May 23.

During a Question and Answer session in the Legco, Yung, 40, who became a lawmaker for the first time after she secured a win in the 2016 election, called on the government to tackle the “problems” caused by domestic helpers who tend to gather together in large numbers on their days off.

When questioning Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr. Law Chi-kwong, Yung blamed the gatherings of the domestic helpers at the city’s public spaces — such as parks, flyovers and footbridges — for causing nuisance to the public as well as giving rise to civic hygiene problems.

Domestic helper groups flew into a rage almost immediately after learning what Yung said, describing the lawmaker’s remarks against them as being discriminatory and racist. 

On Sunday morning, around 200 foreign maids, as per police estimate, marched from Chater Road in Central, demanding that Yung apologize for her remarks.

They chanted slogans, including “We are not slaves”, during the rally that was organized by the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, an alliance of several unions of foreign maids in the city. A prop cardboard that read “Wanted”, referring to Yung, was also raised in the crowd.

After they arrived at the Southorn Playground in Wan Chai, the ending point, some representatives were sent to a nearby building where New People Party’s headquarters are located to present a petition letter.

Accepting the letter in person, Yung said in English to the representatives that she is “really sorry” if her remarks made domestic helpers feel disrespected.

The lawmaker then added, in Cantonese, that her original intent of making such remarks was to seek updates of outdated regulations so as to let domestic helpers have appropriate space to take a rest on holidays.

Yung did not respond to media inquiries as to whether she plans to tender an official apology.

Eman Villanueva, spokesperson for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, said he welcomes Yung’s acceptance of the petition letter and her apology, but added that he still hopes the lawmaker and her party will issue a public statement, in both Chinese and English, to apologize for the remarks.

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TL/JC/RC

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