Foreign Domestic Helpers and Reasons for Sentence in Hong Kong

Dr Daniel Pascoe1

1School of Law, City University Of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong

Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs), officially known as Foreign Domestic Helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong, are well known as a vulnerable population. Separated from their families, overworked, underpaid, and frequently the subject of violent or sexual abuse from their employers, it is little wonder that MDWs are drawn into the world’s criminal justice systems both as victims and offenders. Given the numerous prominent cases of FDHs being victimised by and committing crimes against their employers in recent years, this paper aims at an empirical study of Hong Kong trial court sentencing in cases involving FDHs, both as victims and perpetrators. Drawing from the substantial academic literature on differential treatment in sentencing due to race, ethnicity and immigration status, the author’s effort to code and analyse the sentencing practices in District Court and Court of First Instance trials involving FDHs from 1997-2019 aims to assess whether FDHs (and their employers as victimizers) are treated any differently from other convicted persons in punishment decisions.  For this purpose, the author will employ discourse analysis to analyse judicial language in a search for relevant patterns, and legal analysis to assess the ‘correctness’ of sentencing decision-making and outcomes in cases involving FDHs.


Dr Daniel Pascoe is an Assistant Professor at the School of Law, City University of Hong Kong. He conducts research on comparative criminal law and punishment, Southeast Asian law and Islamic Law.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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