HONG KONG: Thousands of foreign workers poured onto the streets of downtown Hong Kong yesterday in the largest protest so far against government plans to levy a new tax and cut wages for foreign nationals working as maids.
Migrant workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka chanted slogans and waved banners declaring No to Levy, No to Wage Cuts as they marched from Victoria Park to the government headquarters in the financial district of Central.
Organisers claimed up to 10,000 protesters attended yesterday's march.
Police declined to give a figure.
The tax and wage cuts are unjust, discriminatory and exploitative.
The government just wants to impose the tax on the poorest members of society so it can address the budget deficit, said group spokesman Connie Bragas-Regalado.
We are the lowest paid already, so why tax and target this specific group?
It is understood that the government's latest proposal is to levy employers HK$9,600 (RM4,681) on every standard two-year contract for domestic helpers.
The amount of HK$400 (RM195) would then be deducted from the HK$3,270 (RM1,593) minimum monthly wage for maids.
The proposed levy on maids would raise an estimated HK1.4bil (RM682mil) for the administration as it continues to tackle a ballooning deficit.
The government announced a planned 6% pay cut for the territory's 180,000 civil servants last week to be spread over two years, an ominous sign for the maids of its determination to eradicate the deficit by 2005/06.
Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa reportedly told Philippine Senate President Franklin Drilon after a meeting on Friday that an announcement on the decision on whether to impose the new tax and cut maids' pay would be made on March 5, Budget Day. AFP
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