(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.
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."
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
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.
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
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