Monthly Archives: January 2014


BLOG – 2nd Helper This Month Dies at Work in Hong Kong 2

A foreign domestic helper, aged 28, died today after falling from a residential building in Wong Tai Sin. Police are yet to release details, but it is claimed that the woman fell onto a concrete canopy whilst cleaning windows.

External work on HK's high rises

External work on HK’s high rises is usually performed by well-protected scaffolders, image via ‘amdupp’ on Flickr

This is Hong Kong’s second such death in 3 weeks. Earlier this month, Melaine Nobleza, a 45 year old Filipino helper, fell from a 12-story building. Melaine had worked in Hong Kong for almost 25 years and was also cleaning windows when she fell. Authorities took almost a week to relay the news to her family. The incident received no media coverage in Hong Kong’s English press.


PRESS RELEASE: Abuse is “Rare”? Our response to the Indonesian Consul

5,000 protesters rallied on Sunday against abuse.

5,000 protesters rallied on Sunday against abuse.

In a statement to the South China Morning Post on Tuesday, Indonesian consul-general Chalief Akbar Tjandraningrat claimed that the problem of abuse amongst domestic migrant workers is ‘very rare in Hong Kong’. It is disheartening to know that the top Indonesian official in Hong Kong is claiming that Hong Kong is a safe place for migrant workers, despite repeated evidence to the contrary.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; International Labour Organization; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch and others have all cited areas for improvement in Hong Kong’s policies regarding domestic workers.

In response to the case of Erwiana, CY Leung and Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung have both pledged to uphold the law of Hong Kong, but have yet to lay out how specifically that will be done with regards to domestic workers. This mistreatment is something that happens behind closed doors and is difficult to prove; thus the only way to adequately address it is to take preventative measures. Sunday’s rally, organized in under a week to call for justice, was attended by thousands and indicates the growing sentiment amongst migrant workers and Hong Kongers alike that retroactive measures for abuse victims is not sufficient.


EVENT – Protest Tomorrow, Noon, at Labour Department

An announcement below from the Justice for Erwiana Committee. Visit the Erwiana Justice Centre to donate directly to her.

Justice for Erwiana

INVITATION

Dear friends,

The case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih is the latest exposed case of abuse and violence against migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong that should urge the Hong Kong government to make a thorough review on its policies that put the likes of Erwiana in a condition vulnerable to violation of their rights and dignity as a woman, worker and as a human being.
 
Hong Kong Labour Department plays a big role in defining the labour condition of migrant workers aside from regulating recruitment agencies and their practices.
 
It was very unfortunate that despite the gravity of Erwiana’s case, Labour Secretary Matthew Cheung publicly stated that the mandatory live-in employment arrangement – a policy that put MDWs vulnerable to abuses – is here to stay. This statement does not help at all in improving the condition of MDWs in Hong Kong that will mitigate the possibility of more women experiencing the horrors of Erwiana and other forms of violence.

PRESS RELEASE – Official Launch of HK Helpers Campaign

PRESS RELEASE 20/1/14:

 Download press release
The HK Helpers Campaign officially launches today at www.hkhelperscampaign.com
  • Who? – 6 months in the making, we are an independent Hong Kong campaign formed by a group of local activists to promote the rights of local Foreign Domestic Workers.
  • What? – Our objective is to amplify the voices of helpers by linking them, and relevant NGOs, with those in the media, law, politics and academia. We believe helpers are the backbone of the middle class and engine of the Hong Kong economy.
  • Why? – The ultimate aim is to apply pressure to successfully achieve our three basic campaign points. To (1) scrap the ‘two-week’ law, (2) to enforce maximum working hours and (3) to end illegal agency fees. The live-in law and two-week rule discourage helpers, like Erwiana, from escaping abusive situations, whilst illegal agency fees can leave newly arrived maids in debt bondage for months on end.
  • How? – We will achieve our objectives via a public multimedia advocacy campaign and by lobbying key-players one-on-one. We also intend to pursue our campaign points through the courts with the support of our legal advisor, Robert Tibbo. Mr Tibbo is a top human rights lawyer in Hong Kong who advises Vision First. He also advised Edward Snowden and spoke about the Erwiana case in a front page South China Morning Post article today.
We have worked extensively with local stakeholders to form our 3 simple campaign points and have a comprehensive action centre at www.hkhelperscampaign.com/support-us/ along with a special justiceforerwiana.com centre. There are dozens of ways listed for the public to help enact change.We are also building a ‘For Helpers’ section www.hkhelperscampaign.com/are-you-a-helper/ This is our response to recent abuse cases and lists helplines, do/don’ts and advice in 6 languages – search engine optimised to assist domestic workers in danger or seeking help.

PROTEST – Over 5000 Demand ‘Justice for Erwiana’ in Hong Kong (Part 1)

Over 5000 Indonesian domestic workers rallied at police and government headquarters today, demanding justice for torture victim Erwiana Sulistyaningsih.

You can donate to her directly, sign a petition, write letters and more at the Justice for Erwiana.com Action Centre.

Dozens of locals and expats also took part. Hong Kong’s Trade Unionist movement, the League of Social Democrats, Socialist Action, Left21 and the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service were amongst local groups joining the demonstration.

Protesters made the following demands…

1. Investigate Erwiana’s case and prosecute the employer
2. Revoke the agency’s license and punish the agency.
3. Make live out an option.
4. Abolish 2-week rule.
5. Regulate working hours.


ARTICLE – Misguided Hong Kong Laws Failing to Halt Abuse of Helpers

South China Morning Post - Helper abuse story

Click to visit SCMP

Meredith McBride has a comment piece in the South China Morning Post today on behalf of the HK Helpers Campaign…

Stomach-churning images of 23-year-old Erwiana Sulistyaningsih surfaced on social media this week, once again shaming Hong Kong for condoning physical violence against migrant domestic workers. Erwiana was allegedly beaten, burned and tortured to such an extent that she was left in a critical condition.

What will it take for the Hong Kong government to finally act on such horrendous abuse? Clearly, the current system is not working. Only a few months ago, Kartika Puspitasari revealed in court how her employers forced her to wear a diaper and tied her to a chair for days while they left on vacation.

If employers are able to abuse their helpers for months and years on end without ramifications, the laws and policies that allow for this abuse must be changed.

Because of discriminatory legislation, migrant workers have limited options and rights. After leaving an employer for any reason, a domestic helper has 14 days to find alternative employment. To overstay this two-week provision is illegal. However, employment visas take four to six weeks to process. A one-day visa extension costs HK$160. So most have to leave Hong Kong then return once an employment visa has been processed.

Even if abuse has been established, justice is evasive. Cases within the labour tribunal take a minimum of two months to process; abuse cases often take years. This makes it virtually impossible for an abused worker to pursue action against her employer or agency.

A 2012 Mission for Migrant Workers study found that 18 per cent of domestic helpers suffered physical abuse at the hands of their employers. Currently, some 290,000 domestic migrant workers reside in Hong Kong. If this statistic rings true, it is possible that 52,000 women are currently being mistreated by their employer


BLOG – Another Domestic Maid Tortured by HK Employer Flees; Hospitalised.

(N.B. Graphic images below) Erwiana Sulistayaniangsih, a foreign domestic helper from Indonesia, fled Hong Kong last week after being beaten by her employer in Tsueng Kwan O for months on end.

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Erwiana safe in Java

Indonesian NGO ‘Asosiasi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia di Hong Kong‘ (ATKI) said that Erwiana came to the city last May and was beaten daily for 8 months with sticks and hangers for performing poorly at her job. She was released when she was no longer able to walk and was allowed to return home with HK$100. Throughout her ordeal, she was warned not to speak to any other Indonesians.

The name and address of her former employer have been published online as the photos went viral amongst HK’s Indonesian community.