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  • » 01/15/2014, 00.00

    HONG KONG

    New case of "torture" against migrant worker in Hong Kong



    From Indonesia, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23, was ill-treated during her nine months of employment with a Hong Kong family. After going home, she was hospitalised in Central Java. Hong Kong activists and pro-democracy politicians slam existing laws and the climate of insecurity that permeates the lives of foreign workers.

    Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Hong Kong police launched an investigation into the alleged torture of an Indonesian domestic helper during her nine months of employment with a family in the former British crown colony.

    Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23 (pictured before and after the violence), is currently in a hospital in Central Java. Her body is covered in cuts, burns and bruises, which she claims were caused by her former employer. She is said to be improving but is still confined to bed.

    She returned to Indonesia on 10 January, according to the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers, after her employer gave her HK$ 100 (US$ 12) and a t-shirt and asked her not to speak with anyone before boarding the plane.

    A police spokeswoman said the case was not turned over to an investigation officer right away because "The helper's employment agency made a report to police on January 12 but [. . .] did not provide evidence to confirm where her injuries came from. We can just hope to get more details."

    The police statement angered human rights activists and pro-democracy politicians. "If a person is killed and no one reports the murder, I wouldn't think police would want to wait for someone to turn up to provide evidence before starting an investigation," said Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, of the Labour Party.

    Still, this case has put the plight of foreign workers in Hong Kong back in the spotlight. Most of them come from the Philippines and Indonesia to work mostly as domestic helpers or janitors, their life burdened by low wages, housing difficulties, inability to obtain citizenship and veiled racism.

    Despite having  laws and regulations, Hong Kong authorities often appear to ignore deliberately the terrible situation.

    In Sulistyaningsih's case, the physical violence was compounded by other elements of discrimination, such as the alleged HK$ 18,000 fees (US$ 2.300) she was required to pay to her employment agency even though Hong Kong law stipulates that they can charge helpers no more than HK$ 401.

    Such a situation is not unusual. In some cases, agencies charge as much as HK$ 21,000, said Robert Godden, Asia-Pacific Campaign Coordinator at Amnesty International.

    Some go so far as to withhold helpers' passports, employment contracts and bank cards until their debt is paid back.

    For Leo Tang Kin-wa, organising secretary at the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, Sulistyaningsih was probably scared to file a report with police because of Hong Kong's mandatory "live-in" policy for domestic helpers.

    "Why did this case just come to public attention after the helper returned to Indonesia? It is because Hong Kong has failed to provide a safe environment for workers," he said.

    The Indonesian woman "was forced to live with her employers, and there were no public-funded crisis shelters for helpers that she could have escaped to. It is very hard for helpers in Hong Kong to seek help."

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    See also

    10/02/2015 HONG KONG - INDONESIA
    Hong Kong: Indonesian maid tortured, employer sentenced
    The court convicted Law Wan-tung of 18 out of 20 criminal charges. These include "abuse, torture, criminal intimidation and unpaid wages" against Erwiana Sulistyaningsih a young domestic worker enslaved by her employers. Immediately after the ruling, the young Indonesian knelt to pray and said: "I forgive my torturers, but justice must take its course."

    22/11/2012 CINA
    Chinese migrant workers, mutilated in the name of economic growth
    In Guangdong, the rich southern province that is driving the gross domestic product of the "world's factory", every year more than 60,000 workers are involved in work-related accidents. Between employers refusing to pay compensation and local governments conniving with industrialists, this silent army pays with the lives of its members China's prominence on the world economic stage.

    22/11/2012 SAUDI ARABIA
    Riyadh, controls on women: husbands receive sms if their wife leaves the country
    The service has been active for a few days. It serves to control travels abroad by women, who must always be accompanied by a man. Saudi activist for human rights denounce the condition of women who are prisoners in their own country.

    30/09/2011 HONG KONG
    Hong Kong High Court grants permanent residency to the Filipina maid
    A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court. Government opposition, fears invasion of Filipinos and Indonesians. The protagonist of the cause thanks God

    30/10/2007 HONG KONG – CHINA
    Anson Chan presents her electoral campaign
    She wants direct election for chief executive and the LegCo as well as a revised history of what happened in Tiananmen Square. She aims to improve relations with Beijing and the social safety net for families and the elderly. Beijing is trying to undercut her and is supporting a candidate that finds few favours in the population.



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