Hong Kong's highest court ruled Monday foreign domestic servants do not have the right to permanent residency, stating the law has been clear from the start.
"The foreign domestic helper is obliged to return to the country of origin at the end of the contract, and is told from the outset that admission is not for the purposes of settlement and that defendants cannot be brought to reside in Hong Kong,'' the Court of Final Appeal said in a written judgment.
In 2011, a lower court had ruled in favor of Filipino maid Evangeline Vallejos, who had applied for permanent residency in the territory. But an appeals court overturned that decision.
In its decision in the case of Vallejos and another Filipino worker who had lived in Hong Kong for seven years, the Court of Final Appeal also ruled against sending the matter to Beijing for further clarification, The (Hong Kong) Standard reported.
About 292,000 foreigners domestic servants work in Hong Kong. About 117,000 of them would have been eligible to become permanent residents, had the ruling gone their way, CNN reported.
Foreigners working in Hong Kong can apply for permanent residency after spending seven consecutive years in the territory. But the law excepts domestic servants.
Advocates for reform said the ruling would push them to work harder.
"This really just reinforces this situation...that in terms of advocacy (for foreign domestic helpers) we need to do a lot more work," said Cynthia Tellez, General Manager of United Filipinos in Hong Kong.
"It's very unfortunate and it's sad but in a way it will make us stronger as it highlights the social exclusion that foreign domestic workers face in Hong Kong," said Tellez said.
Attorney Mark Daly, who represented Vallejos said he was "very disappointed" with the high court's ruling.
"We respect it (the judgment) but we think our arguments were stronger in the law and in principle. We will keep fighting both inside and outside the court for human rights," he said.