Another group of women went after the sexism in the mass media. An example of what they were talking about concerned the outrageous sexist attacks and sexual harassment against well-known youth activist Christina Chan Hau-man by various gossip sheets and others.
Yet one more group gathered outside a hotel where the Hong Kong Women's Commission (WoC) were holding a luncheon talk for bigwigs. Chan Po-ying said, "Our protest today is similar to the first international women's day 100 years ago. Then it was also about equal rights, about universal suffrage, about a minimum wage and maximum working week. We are still fighting for this and we will keep fighting."
7 MARCH, CAUSEWAY BAY: “We are women, we are workers!” This was one of the chants that rang out in the street outside Indonesia’s consulate in Hong Kong as more than 200 Indonesian migrants protested at the scamming activities of recruitment agencies that illegally overcharge women migrants. “Blacklist bad practise employers and agencies” was one of the slogans on the forest of placards. The consular protest on Sunday 7 March was organised by the Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union (IMWU) and Coalition for Migrants’ Rights (CMR). It was the most colourful and forceful of several demonstrations over the weekend leading up to the 100th International Women’s Day on 8 March. Many activities were timed for Sunday, as this is the only day off work for most of Hong Kong’s 300,000 female migrant workers.
The Indonesian government with its “labour export” policy was the immediate target of the protest, but for these women the Hong Kong government was also under fire. “Instead of upholding the law and punishing and blacklisting bad practise employers and agencies, the Hong Kong government under Donald Tsang’s administration has chosen to suspend the employers’ levy for several years now, freeze the wage increase, ban Nepalese from entering Hong Kong, and exclude live-in domestic workers (mostly migrants) from the statutory minimum wage law,” said a statement from the Coalition for Migrants’ Rights.
Indonesia has “exported” at least six million workers, more than half of whom are women. The policy is promoted by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) who has set a target to rake in at least 1.25 trillion rupiah yearly in remittances from Indonesia’s overseas workers. Inyo, one of the organisers of the protest on 7 March, told chinaworker.info that the roots of the government’s policy was the imperialist crisis, the effects of which fall disproportionately upon migrants and women. “Migrant workers [remittances from abroad] are the second largest source of national income for Indonesia after the oil and gas industry. We are protesting about the policies of the government. There is no bailout for working people or for women.”
Youthful protest against sexist media attack
6 MARCH, CHAI WAN: The 100th International Women’s Day got an even earlier start in Hong Kong. On 6 March around 50 demonstrators assembled outside the Chai Wan offices of Oriental Press Group. They were protesting over outrageous sexist attacks and sexual harassment against well-known youth activist Christina Chan Hau-man by the gossip sheet, Oriental Sunday. This magazine carried front cover paparazzi photographs of Chan at home in her underwear brushing her teeth. The reports were not only a gross invasion of her privacy but had a clearly intended political purpose to denigrate the recent youth protests for democracy and against a government ‘white elephant’ high-speed train project. Oriental Sunday’s completely fabricated “report” alleged that neighbours had made complaints about Chan and implied she led a ‘permissive lifestyle’.
The incident highlights a much wider problem of sexism in the mass media. The protest outside the magazine office, at which Christina Chan recounted her experience and attempts to obtain a public retraction from the magazine’s management, was a clear sign that such media attacks will not be tolerated.
Chan was arrested after the 30,000-strong pro-democracy demonstration on 1 January and charged with assaulting a police officer. Showing the sexist bias of the state apparatus and not just the media, police officers at her interrogation forced Chan to lift up her shirt so they could photograph her tattoo! According to Wikipedia, an anonymous administrator in an online forum for police officers posted rape threats against her after her arrest.
The 6 March protest was organised by the Association for the Advancement of Feminism (AAF) together with informal youth groups, to demand an apology and retraction from the editors of Oriental Sunday. When management refused to come outside to meet the demonstrators, the protest marched into the building, and staged a close-up version on the building’s 5th floor. Loud chanting and drums could be heard from the street below.
Oriental Press Group had sales last year of 1,637,522,000 HK dollars (US$211 million). Its journalism specialises in marketising women’s bodies. It is high time such capitalist media corporations were taken into public ownership and placed under the democratic control and management of the workers, with women workers taking a leading role in this in order to correct an extremely distorted and reactionary view of women and much else, and to open the media to a democratic exchange of views.
“Elderly women – the poorest of the poor”
8 MARCH, KOWLOON: A sizable crowd gathered to watch as a dozen protesters from the League of Social Democrats picketed the Mira hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui on Monday 8 March. Inside the luxurious hotel the Hong Kong Women’s Commission (WoC) were holding a luncheon talk for bigwigs – typical of how governments and establishment bodies have hi-jacked international women’s day. Originally, when launched in 1910, international women’s day was a means to organise women against the capitalists and their political servants. Attending the luncheon were Executive Council member Leung Chun-ying (well known for denying his membership of the CCP), Chief Executive of Hang Seng Bank Margaret Leung Ko May-yee, and Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Paul Tang Kwok-wai.
The LSD protesters smashed a baton in the road depicting the government’s broken promises to women and especially retirees. “The provision of social welfare is minimal,” said Leung Kwok-hung (Long Hair). “We demand more provision for women and especially for housewives who currently are excluded from retirement scheme provisions. Elderly women are the poorest of the poor in Hong Kong, which is why you can see many of them out on the streets at night collecting cardboard and plastic bottles for recycling,” he explained.
The old age pension in Hong Kong is just 1,000 HK dollars (US$129) per month, which no one can live upon. Many old people are forced to rely on their children to support them in old age. “There are hundreds of thousands of women in Hong Kong who have no pension cover,” said Chan Po-ying of the LSD. “This was the most important demand we wanted to highlight today.”
“The women’s commission who organised this 8 March luncheon is a government body, but it’s just a decoration without any power,” she told chinaworker.info. “Our protest today is similar to the first international women’s day 100 years ago. Then it was also about equal rights, about universal suffrage, about a minimum wage and maximum working week. We are still fighting for this and we will keep fighting,” said Chan Po-ying.
Inequality and poverty in Hong Kong