A foreign domestic helper, aged 28, died today after falling from a residential building in Wong Tai Sin. Police are yet to release details, but it is claimed that the woman fell onto a concrete canopy whilst cleaning windows.
This is Hong Kong’s second such death in 3 weeks. Earlier this month, Melaine Nobleza, a 45 year old Filipino helper, fell from a 12-story building. Melaine had worked in Hong Kong for almost 25 years and was also cleaning windows when she fell. Authorities took almost a week to relay the news to her family. The incident received no media coverage in Hong Kong’s English press.
Last year, a worker (unnamed in reports) and an 18-month-old named Wang-hon, died after falling from the 19th floor of an apartment block. According to the police, she was collecting clothes from an outdoor drying rack.
Failing to investigate the issue, name victims or even report on such incidents is not uncommon in the local media. Sometimes, the tone can be outright callous. The Standard published a story, last February, of a 45-year-old Indonesian helper named Jenny who fell to her death. However, it was reported from the perspective of those inconvenienced by her untimely demise. Readers learnt how a witness and her daughter felt ‘scared’, were slightly injured by debris and even cried…
In Singapore, there are often up to a dozen helper deaths a year resulting from window cleaning. The government has urged employers not to make their domestic helpers do such dangerous work.
Unfortunately, many helpers in Hong Kong are not empowered to refuse requests from their employers, as many fear losing their jobs. The 2-week and live-in rule, combined with debt-bondage, mean that few helpers can afford to risk their employment in the city.
HK Helpers Campaign spoke to Filipino activist Eman C Villanueva this evening, who confirmed that helpers feel pressure to complete dangerous tasks. Last October, he was interviewed about his years of cleaning windows for employers by our partner, Stories Beyond Borders…
Contact the Labour Department and insist they enforce safety and regulate the kind of work helpers can be asked to do.
- Contact the Commissioner for Labour. Email FAO Cheuk Wing-hing at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or contact the Licensing of Employment Agencies Department on email@example.com, telephone: Tel: 2852-3535 or fax for free via Outfax at 2851-0834. Or Write to FAO Cheuk Wing-hing, The Commissioner for Labour, Labour Department, 16/F, Harbour Building, 38 Pier Road, Central, Hong Kong