02/10/2015, 00.00
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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."

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - A Hong Kong court has sentenced a citizen on charges of  "abuse, torture, criminal intimidation and unpaid wages" against an Indonesian migrant, hired through an agency as a domestic worker. The judges considered Law Wan-tung guilty of 18 out of 20 counts presented: the two for which she was not found guilty concern another collaborator, employed at a later date. The sentence will be made public at the end of February.

The story of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23 (pictured right after her return home), triggered a wave of global outrage and has turned the spotlight on the real situation of the approximately 300 thousand migrants from different parts of Asia, who enter the territory in search of a job opportunity. These people suffer abuse while still in their country of origin, which they can only leave through "specialized agencies" and they often end up in a nightmare of unpunished crimes and slavery.

The woman was hospitalized in January 2014 in a hospital in Central Java: her body bore the marks of cuts, burns and bruises of varying gravity that were inflicted by her former employer. Her health conditions have improved, but she was bed bound for a considerable period and then confined to a wheelchair. During the trial, the defense argued that Erwiana "is an opportunist who procured the wounds to cover her clumsiness and now wants her employers to pay".

The abuses were reported by the agency that handled her recruitment only January 12, 2014, two days after her return to Indonesia. According to the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers, when she was taking her to the airport, her employer handed her 100 Hong Kong dollars (about 12 €) and a T-shirt, warning her not to talk to anyone before takeoff.

Immediately after the guilty verdict against her tormentor, Erwiana knelt outside the court and prayed to Allah. After her  prayer he told the South China Morning Post: "As a human being, I can forgive Law Wan-tung and her family. But justice must take its course."

When testifying against Law, she told Hong Kong's District Court that she was assaulted frequently, with rulers, clothes hangers and metal tubes from a vacuum cleaner. She was given inadequate food and water and on several occasions was forced to urinate in plastic bags due to a toilet ban Law imposed on her.

Throughout her ordeal, she thought only of escape - even considering sneaking to freedom through one of the flat windows. But I didn't have the courage. "It was on the 38th floor, I was afraid that I would fall down and die. I was locked up in the house. I couldn't open the door. If I opened the door, the alarm would sound and the employer would hit me. Sometimes when I recall the time I was hit and abused, I will cry. I can't contain my tears".

However, her ordeal has also produced some positive results. In addition to obtaining justice, she was admitted last July 2014 at the Sanata Dharma University in Jakarta with a scholarship to attend the courses of business management and economics. Four months later, in November, she was invited to Thailand to speak at the Asia Pacific Civic Society Forum.

Honored the invitation, says: "In the beginning, I didn't want this case to be this big because it's too much of a burden for me emotionally and psychologically. I was glad that my case could reveal other cases that the government hadn't paid attention to. really hope that the governments will recognise domestic workers not only in words, but action".

This case has underscored the plight of foreign workers in Hong Kong. Most of them are from the Philippines and Indonesia, mostly employed as domestic helpers or in cleaning companies. However given the low wages, difficulty in finding housing, inability to obtain citizenship and a veiled racist hostility, their life is often very complicated. Despite the internal laws and regulations, the Hong Kong authorities often seem to prefer to ignore their terrible situation.

This scourge does not only affect Hong Kong or mainland China however. With the full backing of by Pope Francis, on 8 February the universal Church celebrated the first World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Trafficking in human beings, a phenomenon that affects almost 23 million people worldwide today.


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See also
Saudi Arabia: Indonesian migrant risks beheading
Hong Kong, employer who tortured Indonesia maid jailed for six years
Saudi employer severs hand of Indian domestic worker. She was often tortured and abused
In Hong Kong, tortured maid "has forgiven her tormentors"
Hong Kong High Court grants permanent residency to the Filipina maid


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