Exploring mediated representations of migrant domestic workers in the Chinese-language media in Hong Kong

Janet HO*, Andrew SEWELL*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Since the 1970s, local residents in Hong Kong have been employing migrant domestic workers (MDWs) for caregiving, cooking, and housekeeping. The vast majority of MDWs are women from the Philippines and Indonesia. Despite their long-standing and numerically significant presence in Hong Kong, many MDWs are still experiencing prejudice or being mistreated. This study focuses on Chinese media coverage of MDW mistreatment cases in Hong Kong and contributes to a growing body of research on the media representation of MDWs. Critical discourse analysis was conducted on 398 articles published between 2010 and 2019 in three popular Chinese-language newspapers, and the discursive representations of perpetrators and victims in the reports were examined. Adopting the conceptual tools of social control and structural inequality, and tracing their connection with the discursive representations, the study highlights the three significant phenomena of perpetrator exoneration and victim blaming, narrativization, and sensationalism. Findings reveal that MDW mistreatment becomes a secondary concern as the articles often highlight the academic achievements and emotional suffering of the perpetrators, relying on entertainment values and neglecting the deeper roots of the issue. The article then examines the ways in which media discourse arises from and shapes prevailing perceptions of MDW issues, showing how the potential for gender-based violence towards MDWs arises from the intersections of inequality across dimensions such as gender, ethnicity and class.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)931-961
Number of pages31
Issue number6
Early online date24 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work This work was supported by the Early Career Scheme, Research Grants Council Hong Kong: LU23600820.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Hong Kong
  • media discourse
  • Migrant domestic workers
  • mistreatment


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