HONG KONG Joy Fajardo likes to spend her Sundays meeting friends from her home town in Chater Garden, a famous gathering spot for the Philippine community at the heart of Hong Kong's financial centre. But this Sunday was an exception.
The 30-year-old said she was warned to stay away from Chinese crowds for fear of retribution over the dramatic hostage crisis that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead in Manila on Monday.
“We are very worried to be living in a Chinese community now,” Fajardo told AFP.
Anger and grief mounted this week after a busload of Hong Kong tourists was hijacked in Manila by a sacked policeman armed with an assault rifle in a bloody siege watched live around the world.
Eight tourists were killed in the final stages of the 12-hour standoff, triggering widespread accusations about police bungling.
In a sign that feelings are running high, the message “Stop hiring Filipino domestic workers!!!” has sprung up on Facebook sites set up by Hong Kong people to mourn the hostage victims.
The hostage drama has whipped up a frenzy of fear and rumours in the 200,000-strong Philippine community in Hong Kong, where most are employed as domestic helpers.
A series of unconfirmed reports of Hong Kong employers trying to vent their anger by sacking or attacking their helpers has been widely circulating among Filipinos.
Fajardo said text messages had been exchanged saying that more than 30 Filipina maids have been sacked following the tragedy, including one whose contract was terminated allegedly because her family name was the same as the gunman's.
She said she had heard that three maids had been killed, with one of them having acid splashed over her face, but a police spokesman said the rumour was unfounded and they had received no such reports.
“We don't know if these cases are true. But we are very scared,” Fajardo said. Philippine vice consul Val Roque downplayed fears about possible reprisals, saying there had been no confirmed reports of harassment or physical abuse.
“We trust our friends in Hong Kong would not do anything untoward against Filipinos here,” he told AFP. “But we understand the anger must be released. We hope as the days go by that anger will dissipate.” Still, Filipina worker Julie said her 60-year-old employer, for whom she has worked for 14 years, did not speak to her after the hostage crisis.
“She watched news on TV about the hijacking. She did not talk to me and did not give me dinner on Wednesday,” she said. “I was worried because she's not happy and I didn't understand what the Chinese news was about.” Many also complained about being berated on public transport in the aftermath of the siege.
The hysteria reflects the vulnerability of Filipino domestic workers, who underpin the city's economy by taking care of the children and elderly relatives of working parents.—AFP