Chan’s Asia Employment Agency, which placed Erwiana with her employer Law Wan-tung, is still recruiting Indonesian helpers to place in Hong Kong homes. Erwiana was placed with her employer after two previous domestic workers left within six weeks and six months respectively. The Hong Kong Labour Department stated that it found “insufficient evidence” that Chan’s Asia had violated regulations under the Labour Department.
Ms. Lo Fung Chi was the manager of Chan’s Asia Recruitment Agency during the time in question and was a witness for the prosecution that helped find Law Wan-tung guilty of abusing Erwiana and another domestic worker. She left Chan’s Asia shortly after police took her statement in April of last year.
On Erwiana’s contract, Chan’s Asia Employment Agency was named as her employer. Defence lawyers for Law told the court that the agency had kept both Erwiana’s passport and HKID, though the agency denied that it kept Erwiana’s documents. During the trial, the court heard that in order to send Erwiana home to Indonesia, Law lied to the agency, telling them she was taking Erwiana on a trip to China, in order to retrieve her documents from them.
The Honourable Judge Amanda Woodcock found that the testimony of two agents was “measured and deliberate” and served to avoid implicating themselves in any criminal wrong-doing.
The Labour Department confirmed that Chan’s Asia Recruitment Centre is still operating in Hong Kong with a valid license, despite having been implicated in charging Erwiana illegal agency fees, withholding her passport and HKID, and allowing Law Wan-tung to continue to hire domestic workers, in spite of earlier complaints of abuse.
A spokesperson from the Labour Department stated:
“To ensure that the employment agencies (EAs) in Hong Kong are operating in compliance with the law and to protect the interest of job seekers, the Labour Department (LD) will conduct regular and surprise inspections to EAs. In 2014, a total of 1806 inspections were conducted to EAs including Chan’s Asia. LD will conduct prompt investigation upon receipt of complaints against EAs’ suspected violations of the law; prosecution will be taken out when there is sufficient evidence. Regarding Chan’s Asia, prosecution was not taken out due to insufficient evidence. Nonetheless, we will continue to closely monitor the operation of the EA through proactive inspections and complaint investigation. Should any contravention of the relevant law be detected, appropriate actions will be taken out.” (Emphasis added)
In 2014, 170 complaints were made against employment agencies. In total, four agencies were prosecuted under the purview of the Labour Department: one for overcharging a domestic worker, two for operating without the necessary license, and one for failure to notify the Labour Department of a change in management.
The Labour Department did not directly respond to enquiries as to whether it would be reviewing the status of Chan’s Asia given the findings of Judge Woodcock in the District Court:
“Two of these agents gave evidence but I place little if any weight on their evidence. They gave answers that were measured and deliberate. Deliberate in that they were given to distance themselves from any wrong doing where the victims were concerned,” stated Judge Woodcock.
“PW13 (Clara Ho) was vague and recalled little detail, not even when she once had to deal with PW10 (Nurhasanah) and the police at the defendant’s home. She only recalled clearly [that] not one helper had ever complained to her that the defendant had assaulted them. This directly contradicts PW9’s (Tutik Lestari Ningsih’s) evidence that when she had left the defendant’s home she told PW13 about the abuse,” stated Judge Woodcock.
“I am sure PW13 (Clara Ho) was told but her contradiction is self serving to absolve her of any blame or wrong doing. She deliberately distanced herself from any complaint of ill treatment… PW8 (Ms Lo Fung Chi ) declined to answer the question when it was put to her that her agency kept the travel documents of PW1 (Erwiana) to ensure she repaid the agency fee debt from the first 6 months of her salary. They kept it to put pressure on PW1 (Erwiana). She refused to answer after a warning that she may incriminate herself depending on the answer she gave. I placed no weight on her evidence.”
Shortly after Erwiana’s abuse made headlines last year, Indonesian consulate leader Chalief Akbar said they would consider revoking the employment agent’s license. As of January last year, 237 agencies are operating with the approval of the Indonesian consulate in Hong Kong.