Today, around 350 Indonesian maids rallied at their consulate in Causeway Bay in support of a fellow domestic helper who grabbed headlines around the world last month.
Between October 2010 and October 2012, Kartika Puspitasari was allegedly beaten with a chain and a shoe, scalded with a hot iron, tied to a chair, had her hair chopped off and was forced to wear a diaper and children’s clothes by her employers.
Tai Chi-wai, 42, and his wife, Catherine Au Yuk-shan, 41, face charges of false imprisonment, assault and inflicting grievous bodily harm.
No English or Chinese media covered the demonstration, though a representative from Amnesty International was in attendance.
Protesters handed in a petition signed by over 1,800 people…. Deputy Judge So Wai-tak’s verdict on the case is due this coming Wednesday – today’s protest organisers, the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, will attend at 1pm.
“Our action was to support our Indonesian friend who was physically abused by her employer…”, said Union spokesperson Ms. Ganika Diristiani.
Some demonstrators also demanded an end to overcharging by employment agencies… “We pay HK$21,000 for a placement fee… We have no salary for 7 months and must survive in Hong Kong. But our families also cannot survive without any money. If we are terminated here, our families must respond… We make an agreement in Indonesia but our families are terrorised.” said Diristiani.
Such fees are against the recently enforced Convention on Domestic Workers, yet Hong Kong is not a signatory.
A recent change of immigration policy locally made it even more difficult for maids to escape abusive situations such as Kartika’s.
It remains notoriously difficult for maids to prove they are being mistreated. Last month, it was reported that 58% of workers had faced verbal abuse, 18% had suffered physical abuse and 6% had been sexually abused.
Kartika escaped from a bathroom and sought help in the street by a fellow domestic helper. A medical officer discovered bruises and multiple burns and scars.
The couple were arrested 3 days later.
Despite forensic evidence to the contrary, the employers insist Kartika inflicted the injuries upon herself.
Domestic workers are not entitled to the minimum hourly wage in HK and cannot obtain permanent residency, no matter how many decades some have resided in the city.
Maids receive a meagre HK$3,920 per month, are legally obliged to ‘live in’ and must leave the territory in order to begin contracts with new employers. Those who find themselves out of work must find a new employer within a fortnight or risk deportation.
The ‘two week rule’ has been condemned internationally (even by the UN), mostly as it specifically targets Filipino and Indonesian workers.
See below for the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union’s full press release…
If you are a blogger or media organisation, our coverage/photos/videos are available for re-syndication free-of-charge, please get in touch.