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Among the speakers at this year’s Justice Conference in Melbourne, Patricia Ho’s journey with God has led her to becoming a key voice for the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves. DAVID ADAMS reports…

Hong Kong-based human rights lawyer Patricia Ho had always imagined serving God meant becoming a missionary and heading off to foreign lands.

Struggling with boredom as she was completing her law studies as a young woman in London, she was desperately looking for what it was God wanted her to do with her life and the idea of being a missionary was suddenly appealing.

“I wanted to make sure that I would give God everything and I thought that the best and only way to do that is to become a missionary because you live for God out in the wild and all that,” she says.

But then she discovered human rights law and, in particular, the issue of human trafficking and, she says, it was “like my life started making sense”.

“I could not let go of all the things that I read, I could not stop reading. I couldn’t believe that these problems happened around the world. And so that came together and I started realising that people could work to stop human trafficking; that there were organisations around doing that and I started looking into those. But it still took me a long journey to get to where I [am].”


Patricia Ho

Patricia Ho speaking at The Justice Conference held on 27th-28th October at the Melbourne Town Hall.


“I wanted to make sure that I would give God everything and I thought that the best and only way to do that is to become a missionary because you live for God out in the wild and all that.”

– Human rights lawyer Patricia Ho

Speaking to Sight while attending the Justice Conference in Melbourne in late October – where she was one of the speakers on the main stage, Ms Ho says her journey illustrates a simple but important message – one which she brought to share with conference delegates: “[S]tick with God and do what you’re made to do.”

The 34-year-old, who grew up as the eldest of four children in a Christian home in Hong Kong, is now a principal at the Hong Kong-based firm Daly, Ho & Associates.

Since she started work there, the firm has won a string of cases that Ms Ho says has “changed the scene for asylum seekers completely” in Hong Kong. But it was seven years before she came across her first case involving human trafficking.

In that case, the Pakistani victim, known as ‘ZN’, had gone to Hong Kong on a domestic-worker visa but been forced instead to work in an office for almost four years without pay. After raising concerns about his situation, ZN was returned home without any remuneration. Determined not to let the matter rest there, however, the man then saved up so he could return to Hong Kong where he raised his case with government officials and legislators – to no avail.

“Basically nobody did anything,” Ms Ho says. “He even went through a whole asylum process and told his whole story and none of the people who sat there to study his case told him what to do. So, you know, it was beautiful (in a sad sense). It presented in the most obvious way, the government’s complete failure and lack of policies.”

Last year the courts ruled in favour of ZN and Ms Ho says that as a result of the case, the government now has to legislate to criminalise human trafficking and forced labour and design policies to identify victims “and basically design a whole system”. The government, meanwhile, has appealed the decision but Ms Ho is optimistic the court’s earlier decision will stand thanks to the strength of her client’s case.

There’s still much to be done when it comes to human trafficking in Hong Kong. Ms Ho says that while the government in Hong Kong doesn’t officially recognise human trafficking as a crime, it’s estimated that there are some 60,000 people working as domestic workers under forced labour conditions as well as others in sex work and the construction industry.

While Ms Ho, who is married to Justin Ho, a pastor at The Vine Church in Hong Kong, with whom she has two children aged three and five, was able to see how God had His hand upon her life in the way he led her to the ZN case, she says there have been many times when she wanted to walk away from her job thanks to a range of reasons.

These included whether it was safe to continue challenging the authorities over issues like immigration and human trafficking – concerns that came to the forefront when she had the first of her two children, and the ever nagging question of whether her work would actually ever result in any changes to the system.

But, she says, God had continually put things before her which had encouraged her to stay.

“I’m not, sort of, ultra spiritual, in many ways,” she says. “I don’t know what people mean when they hear from God, often. I think part of being a lawyer is I’m probably quite logical and I depend on that a lot, so I reason things out. And God…He just does things, puts things before me to make sure that this is logically the right thing. And so, for example, we keep winning, the system has been improving and God would literally make things happen.”

“It’s only God. Everything for me only makes sense if I know that there is some hope and I count on that. I count on God protecting me.”

– Patricia Ho

An example of the latter happened recently when she had the idea of reaching out to some pastors working with detainees and just happened to meet one of them in court immediately after the concept had crossed her mind. “Things like that. It blows my mind,” she says.

And then there’s the confirmation Ms Ho sees for what she does in the Bible.

“Every single time I open the Bible, it’s a confirmation that this is God’s work,” she says. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, set the broken free and all of that…It’s such an amazing position to be in that you feel like you’re part of that journey.”

Ultimately it’s her faith in Christ, Ms Ho says, which not only led her to fight on behalf of people like ZN but have sustained her in the task.

“It’s only God,”  she says. “Everything for me only makes sense if I know that there is some hope and I count on that. I count on God protecting me.”



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