A newspaper’s false ‘Super Bug’ story

Hongkong, China

THE immediate reaction to the report of The Standard, which describe Filipinos as either carriers or are more expose to contract the infectious disease ‘Super Bug’, did illustrate not only our demands not to be needlessly discriminated against but to also protect the interest of majority our countrymen who had to be here for survival.

In my letter to the Center for Health Protection (CHP) on February 25, the same day the report came out, I sought explanation on what basis were the conclusions made. When they replied though they have clearly said that: “[the report] does not represent their views”. I had mix reactions about what they have told me. On one hand, a feeling of having had the Filipinos cleared, on the other, indignation why it has to be reported.

Hoping I could get more rational explanations from the newspaper, I also wrote to the newspaper’s editor, Ivan Tong; and furnished the letter to the paper’s reporter, Patsy Moy. It was Patsy who filed the report. I had presumptions they would most likely ignore my letter but nonetheless I thought it is worth trying as what any other rational person does: to hear the other side of the story.

However, never did I get a reply from the editor since. The reporter did reply to me, but her response was either selective or calculated. My queries were never answered. A very simple yet core question upon which her report claimed that: Filipinos ‘could be carrying the infectious disease’, could not be proven by conclusive facts. The fact was The Standard’s report was not only subtle discrimination but they too lacked basis.

First, the ‘center’s [CHP] expert’ upon which the report quoted to have said that Filipinos ‘could be getting the diseases carried’ into Hong Kong does not exist; and the CHP’s rejection of the report as not expressing their views renders this claim having no meaning.

However, enormous damage—directly or otherwise—has already been done by the report that should have not been published in the first place.

However, I am still giving The Standard the benefit of the doubt, but until and unless, I could obtain any reply or explanations from them, I would presume the content of the report in question, the credibility of the reporter and The Standards who had published the report in question, would be questionable themselves. Having not to be able to acknowledge any wrongdoings, or make effort to correct the mistake being done does not deserve of being afforded a notion of ‘responsible journalist’.

Secondly, I have had reflection about that the reporter’s reply arguing: “unemployment or racial discrimination are not issues in my [her] article”. Her statement does reflects to what other persons, not only from the local Chinese, but other nationals who resulted to needlessly discriminate against other nationals they thought as ‘inferior’ to them on the basis of their ethnicity and place of origin.

These are often a byproduct of misinterpretation and wrong presumptions perpetuated by the media.

When I had a discussion with a local Chinese activist campaigning for ethnic minorities, her comments about the mentality and the mind set of some local Chinese towards the ethnic minorities did surprises me.

To her, some locals at some point did not even thought of the existence of other ethnic groups; for instance, schools did not even include children of ethnic minorities in their statistics until recently, public hospital administrators did not even thought of having interpreter for patients, amongst others.

Thus, the reporter’s attitudes and her manner of handling writing the article, apart from not interviewing at least a single Filipino, or groups concerned over the welfare of Filipinos in Hong Kong, despite her knowing that there are over 150,000 of us are living here, domestic workers or permanent residents, did reaffirm the Chinese activists’ conclusion that some locals or other nationals does not even thought of existence of ethnic minorities here. The struggle of Filipinos working and living here, in particular the domestic worker, is no longer about ensuring they and their families back home could survive, but their existence too be recognized.

The fact that the negative implications, to which I myself and other Filipinos have seen at the early stage, may have never thought of by the newspaper that published the report, has reaffirmed earlier presumption of the downright insensitivity and lack of prudence, at least by some locals and other nationals, of the plight of ethnic minorities. This is perhaps the idea and notion we had to struggle that should be recognized. But it is also a reality that most of our fellow Filipinos here are themselves trapped between fighting to protect themselves and to ensure their families back home would have a food to eat.

When the story first came out, apart from the stories of subtle discrimination that the workers had shared to me after the report came out, I also had my own dose of being needlessly discriminated against.

On March 7, my Filipino colleague and I were inside a cramped train talking when a man, who looks similar to a local Chinese, had obviously tried to distance himself from me as far as he could. While I was talking to a colleague, this man looks annoyed as he stared at me. Perhaps his problem was: he could not shut our mouth as we talked and that he had to pass in between me and my colleague, both Filipinos, before he could get off from the train. I never had this experience before.

Two days later, I was walking with a colleague on my way to office, when an elderly man, apparently looks weaker than I do, once again tried to avoid coming close to me, as far as he could, as our path crossed. He stared at me, which I did too on him, before he had walked past me. Later I realized I was holding Teodoro Agoncillo’s “History of the Filipino People” that I have been rereading on those days.Our plight is similar to the other ethnic minorities here in Hong Kong; and this mentality towards the minorities is likely to remain, and are unfortunately have already been perpetuated by the media, unless minorities, including us, struggles to fight to have at least this notion of ‘equality and equal protection’ regardless if ethnicity embeds in their minds.


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