‘Racist’ maid ad in Hong Kong draws ire
Aimed at the employers of Hong Kong’s 300,000 maids, who mainly hail from the Philippines and Indonesia, the domestic helper insurance advertisement for Malaysia’s Hong Leong Bank shows the Chinese actor wearing dark orange make-up and a curly wig as he plays clumsy maid “Maria”.
Hong Leong did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the bank appeared to have removed the link to the advertisement from its website on Wednesday.
“I think they should make a public apology,” Eni Lestari, spokeswoman for the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body said, describing the ad as “very racist”.
“You are making comedy out of someone, out of a community,” she said. “For [Hong Kong residents] it’s funny, but what they don’t realise is what’s funny is actually racist.”
She questioned why the bank did not hire someone from Indonesia or the Philippines to play the maid.
Others took to Twitter and Facebook to blast the advertisement.
“You guys should really take down that ad and apologise for it... It’s really not appropriate for a professional representation of your financial services,” Kahlil Stultz wrote on the bank’s Facebook page.
“Why do you have to solidify the omnipresent racial and cultural stereotypes that are hurting so many people?” added Marcin Rutecki.
The row comes weeks after separate controversy over a Hong Kong school textbook, which critics said encouraged children to racially stereotype their neighbours.
The book asked children to match nationalities to the “appropriate” job description – such as Indonesian for domestic helpers, or Japanese for sushi restaurant owners.
The case of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who allegedly endured months of torture by her Hong Kong boss, has put a spotlight on the working conditions faced by the financial hub’s domestic workers.
Her employer, a 44-year-old mother-of-two, is on trial. She denied all the charges against her last week.
Amnesty International last year condemned the “slavery-like” conditions faced by some of the city’s domestic helpers and accused authorities of “inexcusable” inaction.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: June 18, 2014 04:00 AM