The Justice for Eriwana Committee has confirmed that the Indonesian authorities pressured her to switch lawyers and accept a government provided legal counsel. Shortly before her return to Hong Kong for a medical report, Erwiana was asked to revoke the power of attorney given to her current lawyer in Java. She resisted intimidation and has retained legal provided by the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute in Indonesia and Melville Boase in Hong Kong.
In a statement, Hong Kong barrister-at-law Robert Tibbo has commented on the actions of the Hong Kong authorities this evening stating that “the circumstances of Erwiana’s return to Hong Kong are nothing less than shocking”. Mr Tibbo is legal advisor to the HK Helpers Campaign and also advised Edward Snowden during his visit to Hong Kong last year. Today, he spoke of a potential conflict of interests regarding the actions of the authorities…
“With Erwiana’s right to sue the Hong Kong government for breaches of Articles 3 (Torture) and 4 (Slavery) of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, Cap. 383, and in light of the respective Hong Kong Immigration and Police Department threatening and oppressive conduct of today, Erwiana should have absolute minimal necessary contact with the Hong Kong government aside from the Prosecutor in criminal proceedings instituted against her former employer.”
“The respective Hong Kong and Indonesian government interests are clearly adverse to Erwiana’s rights and interests. This is case where Erwiana would be best protected by having Hong Kong lawyers stand between her and the respective Indonesian and Hong Kong governments so that the abuses of today are brought to an immediate stop. This would effectively remove the conflict of interests that exists between Erwiana and Hong Kong and Indonesian authorities”
Update: “Shocking” Actions by HK Authorities a “Conflict of Interests” says Lawyer.
Erwiana, the Indonesian helper who was allegedly tortured for 8-months by her Hong Kong employer, has been taken against her wishes to the Indonesian consulate after returning to the city this afternoon. Erwiana is visiting Hong Kong for a medical report related to her case. Last week, she accepted an offer of secure accommodation from the NGOs who have been assisting her. She initially resisted police efforts to take her to the consulate but was separated from her father and complied with the Hong Kong authorities after they threatened to deport her.
There were tense scenes and a heavy police presence as Justice for Erwiana Committee members gathered to greet her at the airport chanting “shame on the Indonesian authorities“. As a free, Indonesian citizen, who is not under investigation, Erwiana would normally be entitled to visit the city as a tourist for 30 days.
Activists, reporters and police gathered in Causeway Bay at the Indonesian consulate, where Erwiana arrived just before 6pm.
Holly Carlos Allan is the manager of Helpers for Domestic Helpers, an excellent non-profit that provides free advice and assistance to domestic workers. As Erwiana is due to visit the city next week for a medical report, Holly discusses the recent abuse cases and what needs to change.
I don’t know about you, but I find the comment of police commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung that the annual average of 30-40 cases of wounding and serious assault of domestic workers means they are “very rare”, quite chilling. One case is one too many, forty should be alarming.
The two recent cases of seriously abused Indonesian domestic workers, Kartika Puspitasari and Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, raised questions as to how many similar instances have gone unreported. While I believe that most employers in Hong Kong are reasonable, as someone who works for an organisation that provides advice and assistance to domestic workers, I can tell you that the tragedy of Kartika and Erwiana are by no means isolated cases.
One should also ask whether Erwiana would have had a chance at seeking justice if her case was not reported by the media and did not receive International coverage. Numerous such cases dealt with by my organisation have languished in obscurity as the victims decided to abandon their complaints due to police indifference and because they could not afford to stay in Hong Kong without a job as their cases drag on.
As the employer accused of torturing Indonesian helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih appears at a Kwun Tong court facing seven charges of abuse, helpers and local people gathered at the Star Ferry last night for a candlelit vigil in her name.
Despite tireless efforts by the Justice Committee, international condemnation, multiple submissions to the government calling for reform and subsequent torture cases, the Hong Kong authorities are yet to announce any change in the rules which enabled the torture of Erwiana.
Around 50 protesters from the Liberal Party and domestic helper employer groups gathered at government headquarters today demanding the government allow them to sack their helpers without notice.
Last month, at a government hearing, Liberal Party member Harris Yeung warned that “there will be more pregnancies” if helpers are given the option to live away from their employers (video). Protest leader and councillor Michael Lee stood by his party’s assertion today, adding that allowing workers to ‘live-out’ would create social issues, “…such as the housing problem, such as the traffic problem. We cannot control what they are doing at night… They will do some part-time jobs, or they may even go drinking or go partying. Then they will have no energy to work for us.”
The employers claimed their needs were being neglected, chanting “we demand the government give us automatic firing rights!” and “helpers borrow money and run off!“.
HK Helpers Campaign presents two powerful, passionate poems written about helpers to mark International Women’s Day this weekend. The first is from Indonesian helper Arista Devi (via Stories Beyond Borders), the second is from HK-based Canadian poet Akin Jeje.
how much I want you to read my stories
to understand what is really happening
to learn the truth that’s often contested
people do not care what the reality is
we were never promised justice
at least enough to understand
why purple poems come from women migrant workers like me
A new 25-minute TVB documentary, ‘Helpers’ Hell’, was broadcast on Monday. It gives historical context to the epidemic of helper abuse in Hong Kong and examines how the law makes the situation worse. The Pearl Report investigation is also currently available on TVB.com.
For decades, Joseph Law, his ‘Employer Association’ and helper agencies have been lobbying the Hong Kong government to scrap reforms for domestic workers. Their demands are often met by the government, which has caused pay and conditions to actually worsen for the local helper community. During hearings at government headquarters, these opaque and unaccountable groups offer anecdotal evidence to back up their claims in contrast to the hard statistics cited by helper NGOs and numerous international bodies.
Below are our top 10 most shocking myths, claims and demands made by these groups at last Thursday’s Manpower Panel hearing on domestic workers. You can read more about the meeting, or read the HK Helpers Campaign submission here.
1. IF WORKERS LIVE OUT, THEY MAY BECOME PREGNANT
Accidental pregnancy is a problem not amongst domestic workers, but amongst women in general worldwide. The solution is not to require all female employees to live with their employers. The proper route to prevent unwanted pregnancy is family planning education. Many affordable government social hygiene clinics are closed on Sundays when most helpers take their day off. Children can be conceived just as easily during the day as they can be at night. Further, there is zero evidence that more domestic workers will become pregnant if they have their own home.
Anis Andriani, a 28-year-old helper from Ponorogo, Indonesia, was hospitalised in Pokfulam this week after her employer chopped off her finger with a knife. Anis had previously attempted to alert neighbours to her ill-treatment. She was unable to understand her employer as the tip of her finger was severed with a knife on a chopping board on Monday.
It is the latest in a spate of torture incidents. Yet as Anis was being treated in hospital, the government promised that the two-week rule and live-in rules – which enable such mistreatment – are here to stay.