Linguistic hostility and mediated representations in migrant domestic worker mistreatment

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Mistreatment reports are stories about humans that are intrinsically interesting to readers. Journalists may report the victimization of people in an emotional and sensational way to elicit collective sentiments, detailing the criminal acts or even villainizing perpetrators to boost circulation figures. This kind of news report also costs less to produce and thus is more profitable than in-depth investigative stories. A particular example that has come into prominence is the mistreatment of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in Hong Kong. Since the 1970s, local residents in Hong Kong have increasingly employed MDWs for caregiving, cooking, and housekeeping. Even after five decades, however, many MDWs in Hong Kong still experience prejudice or mistreatment. While most studies have documented MDWs’ experience with employers and placement agencies through their narratives, a few have examined the Chinese media representations of MDWs. As the media have the hegemonic power to influence public perception by discursively representing social actors positively or negatively and by selectively foregrounding or backgrounding information (Van Dijk, 1996), an investigation of MDW mistreatment reports will enhance our understanding of how the discursive representations of MDWs as victims and their employers as perpetrators have been mediated by the local Hong Kong Chinese news media. Accordingly, this study focuses on Chinese media coverage of MDW mistreatment cases in Hong Kong. It questions the Hong Kong print news media’s dissemination of MDW mistreatment news and the discursive portrayal of perpetrators and victims. A thematic analysis was conducted on more than 300 articles published between 2010 and 2019 in Hong Kong’s three popular Chinese language newspapers, and the mediated representations in the MDW mistreatment reports were examined with reference to Wodak’s (2001) discursive strategies. The findings reveal that discursive strategies such as nomination and predication were deployed to reveal the background information of perpetrators, steering readers’ attention away from the mistreatment problem, suggesting that MDW mistreatment thereby becomes a secondary concern.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2023
Event8th International Conference on Grammar & Text - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 28 Jun 202330 Jun 2023


Conference8th International Conference on Grammar & Text
Abbreviated titleGRATO2023
Internet address


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