Over the past three months in Hong Kong, I have learned a lot about the lives of migrants especially domestic workers in Hong Kong, other countries in Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. All of these countries have dozens of laws pertaining to the rights (or lack thereof) of migrant workers in host countries. Wage laws, citizenship laws, visa permits, right to organize etc. all depend on the host country. For example, in Hong Kong, domestic workers do not have the right to abode. This means that a women who is here on a visa for domestic work can never apply for permanent residency, even if she has lived and worked in Hong Kong for ten years. Any children of domestic workers born here also do not have a right to apply as Hong Kong residents. Obviously, this is very different than in the US where anyone born in the US is a citizen, regardless of his or her parents citizenship. Additionally, all legal immigrants may apply for citizenship after seven years.
In response to discriminatory laws, I frequently hear (and have heard for many years), “well, sure, it’s not perfect, but the situation is better than _____.” In Hong Kong, migrants enjoy many rights that they do not enjoy in other countries such as a minimum wage, and a system exists for migrants to use to report labor violations or physical violations to the authorities. However, they still suffer from low wages, underpayment of wages, high or illegal recruitment fees and discrimination. Yes, the situation for domestic workers is better in Hong Kong than in Malaysia but that does not mean that injustice doesn’t exist.
As Christians, God calls us to live out God’s kingdom on earth. Everyone deserves the right to live in peace and justice, and we must fight injustice in the world to make this vision a reality. Therefore, we cannot write off one cause as “better than” another because as long as injustice exists, we must fight to end that injustice. It seems impossible, but with a population of seven billion people and lots of praying, we should be able to achieve radical social change. So everyone may live free from discrimination, free from violence and free from poverty.