Hong Kong, Foreign domestic helpers


In Hong Kong, with a population of a little more than 7 million, live almost 300,000 foreign domestic workers. Most of them are female and are either Filipino (48%) or Indonesian (49.4%) *. They run the household of their employers and take care of the children. They usually live in the house of their employers. The current minimum wage for their work is 3,740 HKD (Hong Kong dollars) per month (480 USD, 365 EUR, 3,050 RMB) *.


By law they are entitled to have one day off every week and on Sundays you see many Filipino and Indonesian women gathering on the street, in parks or at one of the numerous places where they can prepare cargo for shipping to their families at home.


* Source: Wikipedia



Left: spending time with friends on a square chatting and with a massage. Right: gathering of Muslim women in Victoria park.



On the third photo from the left two women are packing a large box for shipment to the Philippines. The cost of the shipment is 680 HKD and the shipment will arrive at their family after 2 or 3 weeks.

Other prices: 24″ x 14″ x 14″: from 200 HKD for Manilla to 270 for Mindanao; 24″ x 24″ x 30″: from 499 HKD for Manilla to 580 HKD for Mindanao (1″ = 2.54 cm).


The 2nd and last photo from the left show ads from an agency offering the services of domestic helpers. The information provided includes:

Personal details: Name, Date of Birth, Religion, Marital status, Weight, Height, Address.
Family background: Father’s name, Occupation of father (in the ads I saw, all of them where farmer), Mother’s name, Number of brothers, Number of sisters, Name of spouse, Occupation of spouse (most of them were farmer), Number of children, Ages of children.
Then there is a table detailing the work experience in working with children, elderly, disabled, etc.
In these two examples the remarks field is used to mention previous work experience in Taiwan and Saudi Arabia respectively.



The area around the agencies sending the shipments is at the same time a place to meet and socialize.



In front of, and (photo on the right) inside, one of the many warehouses for shipments to the Philippines and Indonesia.



Kowloon Mosque & Islamic Centre


In Hong Kong live around 200,000 Muslims. More than 100,000 of them are Indonesian domestic helpers. The other 100,000 are mainly Hong Kong residents.


Mufti Muhammad Arshad, the Chief Imam of Hong Kong, is himself a Hong Kong resident. He came to Hong Kong in 2001 and became a Hong Kong national several years later.


With a master’s in Islamic Studies, Mufti Muhammad Arshad moved with his wife and three children from Pakistan to Hong Kong and started as a senior Imam at the Kowloon Mosque & Islamic Centre.


Mister Arshad feels that Hong Kong is a much better place than Pakistan, because it is a multicultural and very peaceful society. He learned to appreciate the broad spectrum of the Hong Kong society and the acceptance people have for other people is one of the good things he learned in Hong Kong. He still needs to get used to the fact that people here keep themselves in a restricted mode. They are not particularly friendly when you approach them. Maybe it is because of the language barrier, but if you ask for directions or about a product in a shop, people are reluctant to tell you. Many people are quiet and distant. This in contrast to the many other countries he visited, where people love to guide you or just say hello; or unlike for instance Beijing, where people are very friendly.


The original mosque was built in 1896. In the 80s a new mosque was built at the same place and it opened its doors in 1984. Muslims from many different nationalities – from Asia, Africa and Europe – visit the mosque.


The mosque does not identify with a single denomination or Islamic school. Muslims of every Islamic denomination or movement are welcome.


The most important roles of the mosque are to maintain peace and love between different communities and to be a friend of the people. The doors of the mosque are open to everyone. Almost every day groups are visiting the mosque, and so do people from different institutions like NGOs and schools. They will see the activities of the mosque (like the Kindergarten or programs for needy people), they learn about the prayers and the teaching of the Holy Book Qur’an.


On Friday’s the mosque is very busy. Around 3,000 Muslims fill the three floors of the mosque. The preaching on Friday is focused on current affairs related to family life, the community and how to be good in daily life situations. Political affairs are not being discussed.


The emphasis is on virtues like patience and honesty and on subjects like serving the needy people, respecting the parents and looking after your family and children. These are the most important subjects to be discussed and people need to be convinced to do the right thing.


Hong Kong is an open society, so in the Friday sermon one of the topics could be about a man who is having an extramarital relationship.  In that case his family is suffering and the Imam will tell the people that they have the responsibility to look after their children and their family. Similarly, if someone is working in the market, he should not cheat his customers.


The responsibility of the younger generations to look after their parents at old age, who depend on them, is also a topic addressed in sermons.


Unlike other religions, there is no international hierarchy in the Islam. The Hong Kong mosque is independent. There is no frequent exchange of ideas with imams in other countries. For instance, there is no contact with imams from Beijing. Sometimes an imam from Mecca will visit the mosque and Mr. Arshad and his colleagues love to go to Mecca or Medina or listen to Imams from these holy places.


A main focus of the mosque is on good relationships with the different communities in Hong Kong. There are frequent dialogues with Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews; all faithful people. In Mr. Arshad’s native country one couldn’t imagine that you go to other places of worship, but here in Hong Kong they are visiting temples, churches, synagogues. Mr. Arshad says this is the good thing in Hong Kong. To meet different people, contact and talk with them directly; instead of only getting information via indirect sources. By being in frequent direct contact, one learns to understand people with different backgrounds and religions. Mr. Arshad feels it is enriching and enables communities to learn from each other.






Text and photos © Anton Hazewinkel 2011

Kowloon, TaiJiQuan (Tai chi)


When I saw this man performing his exercise, I didn’t feel like making a candid shot. Out of respect I guess. His movements were slow and very gracefully. I decided to sit down and watch him for a while. After 10 minutes I stood up and asked him if I could make some pictures and he immediately agreed. Unfortunately he was already tired of his exercise and the heat (well above 30 C°). After a few shots he had to sit down to take a rest. I got the impression that the wheelchair, visible in the background of the middle two photos below, belonged to him. In the wheelchair was a small radio tuned in on a channel playing old Chinese songs from the 50s and 60s.
I tried to talk to him in English and Mandarin, but he just gave me a friendly smile. I gave him my business card and returned a smile with the same meaning: “Nice to meet you and goodbye”.




Hong Kong, Cantonese Opera



Shadows on a red canvas of Cantonese Opera actors playing in an open air theater in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district. Apart from the story, the singing and the acting; the movement of the actors is important. These movements turn into a dance, supported by their outfit and the attributes they are carrying.





Hong Kong, A Day at the Races




Racing and betting at The Hong Kong Jockey Club in Sha Tin. Typically daytime races, 8 in total, start in the early afternoon and end around 5 pm.

This day the average betting totals were, as displayed on screens, around 20,000,000 Hong Kong dollars per race (1 Hong Kong dollar is slightly less worth than 1 RMB).

Behind the race track is a theater where the winners are presented after each race and where VIPs gather to be seen with the winners. The theater has different sections for “normal” visitors, members and VIPs and is an ideal place for networking.


shatin horse racing