A Filipino maid in Hong Kong won the opening legal battle on Friday in her fight for permanent residency after a court ruled an immigration provision excluding the city’s hundreds of thousands of foreign maids was unconstitutional.

It’s a major legal victory in a case that has divided the city with accusations of ethnic discrimination against the foreign maids, most of whom are from the Philippines or Indonesia.

Justice Johnson Lam, ruling in the Court of First Instance, rejected arguments by Hong Kong government lawyers that the maids did not have the same residency status as other foreign residents.

Justice Lam said that the immigration provision denying the maids the right to gain permanent residency after seven years as other foreign residents can was inconsistent with the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

The government is likely to appeal on Friday’s ruling.

The case was launched by Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a longtime foreign domestic helper, who sought a judicial review after her bid for permanent residency was rejected.

“To be clear, Ms. Vallejos won on the unconstitutionality of the provisions,” said Mark Daly, one of the lawyers handling her case.

Ms. Vallejos, who did not attend court because she was busy working said “thank God” after learning the outcome, Mr. Daly said.

The case has divided opinion in Hong Kong, with some arguing that immigration provisions barring maids, who mostly come from the Philippines or Indonesia, from applying amounts to ethnic discrimination. But other groups say that giving the maids permanent residency would result in an influx of their dependents, which would put a strain on the city’s resources.

Mr. Daly said he expected the government to appeal within the 28-day deadline.

About 290,000 of Hong Kong’s 7.1 million people are foreign maids.

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