Philippines hostage take-over of Chinese nationals leads to increased discrimination against Filipino immigrants in China

By Gina Abuyuan For Yahoo! Southeast Asia (Special thanks to Arielle for the link- her blog: http://missdef.wordpress.com/)


It was past 7 p.m. when Ligaya Mata, 48, a Filipino domestic helper based in Hong Kong for the past 21 years, turned on the television and saw what was to be the most horrifying 40 minutes of the 11-hour siege that happened Monday. “I regret I did not turn it on sooner,” she says. “But I caught it.” She and her Chinese employer, a journalist, sat through the coverage stunned and speechless. “Each time a hostage was brought out from the bus, my boss and I whooped with joy!

Strained Relations
Ligaya is one of the 140,000 Filipino residents in Hong Kong who are more than worried about what effects the recent hostage tragedy will have on Filipino-Chinese relations. “I am very sad, Honk Kong is like a second home to me. My boss treats me well. Our chinese employers treat us well—they treat us as people, not just the help).” Ligaya adds that she and her boss even take their meals together—a rare thing in Filipino households, where the help have their own quarters to dine in.

Her daily afternoon trip to the market already has her anxious. “Some Chinese are already expressing their anger openly. I could sense their sneers, they looked at me strangely” she relates.

Making Up
The growing anti-Filipino sentiment among Hong Kong nationals is understandable: eight of their people were killed in the hostage tragedy caused by an enraged ex-cop, Rolando Mendoza, who had hijacked their tour bus just before lunchtime Monday, August 23. Dismissed on alleged drug-related crimes and extortion, Mendoza demanded reinstatement into the Philippine National Police.

What ensued was a botched up SWAT operation that has the whole world outraged at the incompetency and ineptitude of the Philippine government and police force. Mendoza died by gunshot that night, as well.

The crime of one of our own countrymen affects us all,” Ligaya rues. “So many lives lost…How will you make up for that loss?”

TC Chu, a 50-something former property consultant and longtime Hong Kong resident, has one suggestion: “(Make a proper) inquiry or commission. Everyone will get more and more upset if (the Philippine government) just cover (things) up and don’t admit it. Emotions will run high, that can be expected,” he says. “I just hope no one tries to take ‘revenge’—that’s the worst thing that could happen. But please, no more cover ups.

“This could’ve happened anywhere—in Washington, or in the U.K. It was just bad luck that it happened in the Philippines. But to a certain extent, things like this will happen to a country when it doesn’t have good governance.”

Albert Cheng King-hon, outspoken political commentator, former radio talk show host, and columnist for the South China Morning Post, adds, regarding the potential strain on relations: “It has nothing to do with the people, we have no problem with the people, but the Philippine government is totally incompetent. Millions of people saw the unprofessional, amateur, stupid police (operation) that meant senseless deaths.”

Meanwhile, Filipinos like Ligaya will make their careful way through their lives in Hong Kong. “I’ll observe this Sunday, in church, if people will treat us differently. I’m very angry, my heart hurts. What a disgrace this was to the whole world.”

W. Husain Commentary- Do we see the comparison of India to Pakistan in China to Philippines. For example, after the Mumbai terror attacks the Indian government automatically turned down all Pakistani visiting/ student visa applications. The process of “othering” a group because thier government is inadquete or struggling is the M.O. of many countries- but the “othering” can start us down a slippery path toward outright inequality and discrimination.

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