Wednesday, September 17, 2008

HK airport detains Filipina trans women

Dear friends,

It has recently come to the knowledge of the members of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) that it is now customary for Hong Kong (HK) immigration officials to detain Filipina transgender/transsexual (trans) women at the HK airport.

We have been receiving anecdotes of various Filipina trans women who were approached by immigration officers while waiting in line to enter HK and asked to follow them to holding rooms. When the women asked why, the officers said it was a standard "security check."

Once inside these "holding" areas, these trans women's treatment varies. Some of them are outrightly accused of being prostitutes and more often than nor asked how much money they are carrying, as if that would prove they are not there for sex work. One, in fact, suffered the inhuman experience of being strip searched. Some are held for hours without being informed of the reason for their detention; while some others have been asked to exit HK at once with no official document stating the reason why.

We are trying to document these cases because we fear that some kind of profiling is happening at the HK airport. These means that ALL Filipina trans women entering HK are immediately suspected of doing illegal activities in this Special Administrative Region (SAR)--a clear case of discrimination. Furthermore, these "security checks" are very arbitrary. There seems to be no standard process being followed in the detention and interview of these women and many of them are disrespected and treated inhumanely. The period of stay they are granted, if they are allowed to enter HK, varies as well from 2 days to 14, the standard maximum for tourists. The waiting time in the holding rooms is also inconsistent. Some are held for an hour or two while others are held for longer. And when let go, all trans women report of not having received documentation of their detention.

In this regard, we would like to ask your help in gathering information. If you know any Filipina trans woman who's been to HK and experienced this indignity, please ask her to detail what happened to her. It will help if we get the following information:

1. Name
2. Age
3. Profession/Student
4. Date/s of entry to HK when you were asked to go to the immigration office
5. Time (if you still remember) of your arrival in HK
6. Carrier you took to HK (CebuPac, PAL, Cathay, etc.) & Flight Number
7. Purpose of your trip/s to HK (tourism, business, conference, study, etc.)
8. Number of hours or minutes you were "detained"
9. Other "complaints"

We are asking our trans women friends to be brave and come forward with their stories of illegal detention at the HK airport as we plan to bring this "unspoken rule" to the attention of the Chinese/HK embassy here in Manila. We are also appealing to our lawyer friends to provide us with legal advice on the matter. Also, if you have the contact details of HK/Chinese LGBT groups, activists, LGBT-friendly media, and anybody who you think can help us shed light on this issue and rectify it, please help us get in touch with them.

We will appreciate any help. Thank you very much. Together, let’s fight LGBT oppression.

In solidarity,

Dee Mendoza
Chair, STRAP

Pau Fontanos
Secretariat, Ang Ladlad


Leona Lo said...

Dear Dee

I hope this email finds you well. Thanks for standing up for your fellow trans women. I find the practice in Hong Kong appalling. I will blog about this too. Have you contacted Lynn Conway to put this up on her site? And also Steven Winter to clarify this directly with the authorities?

Best Regards

PinayTG said...

Hi Leona,

This is not Dee but I'll surely pass on your message to her. By the way, let me take this opportunity to thank you for being one of the pioneers of trans activism in Asia especially in Singapore.
I consider you a pillar of the Asian trans community and I want you to know that you are greatly appreciated. I hope one day to meet you personally Leona. It will truly be an honor. :)
Be well always and much love!