A Hong Kong columnist came under attack on Monday from angry Philippine politicians and migrant workers after he described their country as “a nation of servants” and condemned Manila’s claims to the Spratly Islands.
Chip Tsao said in his column in the latest issue of HK Magazine that the Philippines’ recent threat to send gunboats to defend the disputed islands in the South China Sea against Beijing, which also claims sovereignty, was “beyond reproach”.
The reason, he wrote, was that more than 130,000 Filipinas were working for as little as 3,580 Hong Kong dollars (459 US) a month as domestic helpers in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.
Tsao also wrote that he had given his own maid a harsh lecture, warning her to tell her people that the whole island chain belonged to China if she wanted a pay rise next year.
The column drew an angry response from Philippine groups and politicians who branded Tsao a racist and demanded an apology from him and the magazine.
“Instead of contributing to intelligent discussions on ways to resolve the Spratlys’ dispute, Tsao only succeeded in eliciting hatred and sowing more confusion not only among Filipinos but maybe even among his fellow Chinese who are not aware of the intricacies of the issue,” Pia Cayetano, chairwoman of the Philippine Senate’s committee on social justice, said in a statement.
Gina Esguerra, secretary general of Migrante International, the country’s largest alliance of overseas workers, said the article “smacks of unqualified racial bias that vilifies the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in Hong Kong and puts them in danger of prosecution and harm.”
The group also called on Manila to declare Tsao a “persona non grata” in the Philippines.
Tsao, who is also a television and radio host, told the Mingpao newspaper that he was a little shocked by the response to his column. He said it was just his style of writing and asked his readers to take it easy.
The dispute over the Spratlys, believed to sit atop vast mineral and oil deposits, has been renewed following a near collision between Chinese vessels and a US naval surveillance ship earlier this month.
The chain of atolls and reefs is also claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.