On May 11th 2006, Mia decided to leave for Macau in a desperate attempt to getherself another visa to Hong Kong. Peggy Lee, a human right activist who works withFilipino migrant workers like Mia, advised her not to take such a risk. She might becaught and turned away by the Hong Kong Immigration when she returned, Lee toldher.
But for Mia, who had worked as a household employee in Hong Kong since 1998,there was no choice besides trying her luck in Macau on the day her Hong Kongemployment visa expired. She said that if Immigration in Macau gave her an entrypermit, there would be a chance of returning to Hong Kong on a visitor’s visa.
A few days earlier, Mia’s employers terminated her work contract after she had servedthe family for a year and a half. The reason, she said, was that they had discovered shewas a lesbian. Mia was found to be in a two-year “husband-and-wife” relationshipwith Jen, a young-looking lesbian with flowing straight black hair. Neither of themknew how they had been “spotted out”. It was bad luck, said Mia. The termination ofher contract plunged her into a crisis.
Hong Kong law requires household employees like Mia to have a contract with anemployer, and gives migrant workers whose employment has been terminated in mid-contract14 days to find a new employer. If they fail to secure a job within the twoweeks, they have to go back home and wait, without knowledge of when anotheropportunity for a contract might come through.
Shortly after Mia was laid off, she was on a job-hunting spree, but there was not muchluck for her in finding a friendly employer who would accept the way she is.
Mia and Jen – their names are changed here, because they are afraid to reveal theirreal identities – used to talk for an hour or two on their mobile phones after a hardday’s work before collapsing onto their beds, fatigued but satisfied. Sunday, their dayoff, was their happiest time of the week. The couple would sit, nudging against eachother in Charter Garden, their hands folded. An expression of heartfelt delight andsatisfaction would diffuse over Jen’s face, her dark hair glowing in the heat of thesummer sunshine. Mia would gaze at her, and look away, smiling. The teeminggarden is a reminder of their borrowed hours of happiness.
But after Mia was fired it was difficult for Jen to reach her. She stayed at the BethuneHouse, a shelter in Jordan for migrant women in difficulty, until the day her visaexpired.
On May 13th, Mia embarked on a ferryboat to Macau. She was lucky enough to getpast Immigration in Macau, and to have free home-stay at a friend of Jen’s there. Butafter 14 days, she was visited by another crisis—her plan to return to Hong Kongfailed. With hope gone, she got on a plane to the Philippines instead.
I met Mia and Jen in 2006, and in the following years,many more foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kongwho find love and strength from their same-sex partners. While I documented their stories of heartbreaks, frustrations, as well as courage and determination, I began to realise that it wastheir stories that hadpushed me to the frontline of feminist movement to tackle discrimination and exploitation. My frontline story is liberallybeing on the frontline with countless others who have stumbled over, bravely,and broken throughindescribable hurdles to be the change they want to see in the world.
How to Get Involved
to document, to speak up, to rally, to change the law, and to educate the public