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Filipino guest workers wary of Hong Kong handover

Primero June 25, 1997
Web posted at: 6:05 p.m. EDT (2205 GMT)

From Correspondent May Lee

HONG KONG (CNN) -- Filamina Primero considers herself to be one of the luckiest people she knows.

For 19 years, she's worked as a live-in maid in Hong Kong, earning good money, living a comfortable life and putting aside money for the future. Had she stayed in her native Philippines, she suspects her life would have been much different. She would have remained poor and, in her words, probably "had 10 children."

But for Primero and 160,000 other Filipinos living and working in Hong Kong, the July 1 transition from British to Chinese rule is raising anxiety. Even though assurances have been made by the Hong Kong government that nothing will change for these guest workers, they still fear what new laws China might impose.

Although exploitation of Filipino workers occurs in Hong Kong, it is still considered to be a place with a generally favorable environment.

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An example of that environment comes every Sunday, when streets in the center of the city are shut down so Filipino domestics can have a place to meet, socialize and catch up on the week's events. It is a combination marketplace, doctor's office and outdoor concert hall.

Primero and many of the other Filipinos work under contract with their employers. Her situation is better than most. She has a two-year contract providing free room and board and about $620 a month.

But some of the Filipino guest workers report that when they have approached their employers about new contracts recently, they have been told that they should come back in July after the handover.

As for Primero, she has bought some land and a house back home and has been able to help financially with her siblings' education. She wants to keep living out her dreams in Hong Kong -- as long as the powers that be continue to allow it

 
Hong Kong Special Section

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