A 32 week pregnant former domestic worker reported to Vision First that in March 2015 Immigration officers used heavy-handed tactics in an attempt to remove her from Hong Kong International Airport.
Through sheer determination she scored a victory against state machinery that presumably safeguards border integrity with due regard to human rights.
Fitrini (not her real name), 28, was terminated by her Chinese employer when she was two months pregnant, despite discrimination against expectant women being outlawed in this cultured and sophisticated city. She recounts, “I read my contract and nothing said that I could not get pregnant. He didn’t have the right to terminate me. My agency said that they could not help.”
Fitrini fell pregnant with her South Asian boyfriend who supported her throughout the ordeal as they sought a way to stay together. They still plan to marry in the future, “after we find a solution to our problem because after my visa expired I had to leave Hong Kong.” They are in love and wish to raise their child together “if Immigration gave me a chance to stay here,” the mother explained.
In an attempt to stay legal, Fitrini went first to Macao for one month. Upon her return to Hong Kong she was questioned by Immigration and eventually granted a one week visa, “Because I said I have many clothes and things I must collect before I go back to my country.” She then left behind the city, her boyfriend and her dreams of a happy family.
Fitrini’s Muslim family was furious at her predicament. They felt that an unmarried pregnancy brought unforgivable shame to them. “My family could not accept me. Everyone turned against me because of the baby. I could not stay home, so I decided to return to Hong Kong. I hadn’t done anything wrong and thought that Immigration would give me a chance because my boyfriend was here.”
Fitrini narrated her experience. “I had a good record and I hoped Immigration would give me a visa upon arrival. Instead they refused me to let me in. They asked why I came back and I told them I had to meet my boyfriend. They detained me and warned, ‘This time no bargain’. I asked what does it mean? The said a flight had been arranged and I had to leave Hong Kong”
“I said I could not go back because I had problem with my family and I wanted to see my boyfriend, but they would not listen. [With a pretext] to move me to another office, they took me in front of the plane but I knew what it was and grabbed the cabinet and screamed. There were three female officers pulling me but I grabbed the chairs and screamed as many [passengers] watched.”
“I was 30 weeks pregnant and afraid to go back home. I have to stay in Hong Kong to see my boyfriend who was waiting outside the airport. Why they do that to me? They dragged me to the airplane three or four times and I have to fight with them … I was screaming and kicking in front of everyone. This was very shameful but I had no choice.”
“I did not tell them I understand Chinese. When they talked about getting a wheelchair and tying my arms and legs, I warned that I would make suicide before they put me on the plane. For four days they pressured me and used force. I did not believe that Hong Kong Immigration could do this. After four days they let me use my mobile phone and I called outside. Before they refused me to see the lawyer that came with my boyfriend, but then they agree.”
“I never wanted to be as a non-refoulement claimant, but I had to sign [a USM claim] to get in. I only wanted to see my boyfriend to find a way out for our problem. We have a baby and we want to be together. Immigration said I could not have the baby in Hong Kong. They force me to leave, but I fight with them and in the end they released me.”
This incident sheds light on questionable tactics adopted by Immigration officers to remove a vulnerable and pregnant Foreign Domestic Helper considered undesirable and deportable because no longer useful as cheap domestic labour, despite Hong Kong’s ostensible support of human rights.