(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.
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.
Ms Sringatin from the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union said that.”Everyday they beat her, they poured hot water on her hands and feet. The employer said she was lazy. She tried to contact the agency in Indonesia but the agency didn’t do anything. They asked her to continue her job…”
Upon arriving in Java last week, Erwian’s legs were bleeding. She posted photos of her condition to her helper friends back in Hong Kong and her parents sent her to hospital where she apparently remains now.
Her local employment agent, Chan’s Asia Recruitment, have denied ignoring her complaints, according to ATKI. Officers at HK Immigration asked if she wanted to press charges, but Erwian denied being beaten and said she simply wished to go home.
Hundreds of migrant workers gathered at the Indonesian Consulate at 4pm yesterday demonstrating their solidarity and protesting against domestic helper abuse in Hong Kong. On Monday, local NGO Open Door gathered in Tseung Kwan O to speak to residents and express sympathy for Erwiana.
Leo Tang from the HKCTU said, “This case highlights that the live-in rule is open to abuse. It needs to be a choice between employer and employee”. Today’s photos emerged months after another case of torture against a domestic helper made headlines around the world.
A 2012 Mission for Migrant Workers survey found that 58% of workers had faced verbal abuse, 18% had suffered physical abuse and 6% had been sexually abused.
The internationally condemned ‘two-week’ rule, and the fact helpers must live with their employers, makes it unlikely they will report or leave abusive situations, particularly when there is an obligation to send money home or repay debts to agencies.
2014 is a year for action on this issue. The HK Helpers Campaign launches this month with an action centre to unite Hong Kongers against the discriminatory policies faced by the city’s helper community.