PROTEST – Hundreds Flash Mob in Victoria Park & Erwiana is Released

Hundreds of helpers gathered in Victoria Park on Sunday for the ‘One Billion Rising‘ flashmob, which called for improved rights for domestic helpers and justice for torture victim, Erwiana

Over 500 people braved the drizzle, filling Victoria park and demanding an abolition of discriminatory policies against helpers.

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via Jennifer Ngo on Twitter

HK Helpers Campaign attended – photos from Silvia Bonvini…

The ‘One Billion Rising’ global movement was founded in 2012 – it campaigns to end violence against women, encouraging people to rise for justice and promote gender equality worldwide.

The “billion” refers to the UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime, or about one billion. 2012 study revealed that 6% of Hong Kong’s helpers have been sexually abused and 18% have been physically abused.

Monique Wilson, the director of One Billion Rising read a message from founder, Eve Ensler. It was was met with deafening cheers and applause…

“The women of the world stand with migrant domestic workers here in Asia and throughout the world – and demand that their work be honoured and their bodies be respected. That their rights to fair, humane and dignified labor practices – and the right to work without sexual harassment, abuse and brutality are upheld throughout the world. And we RISE with them, and will continue to RISE with them, until these demands for justice are met”

Another ‘V-Day’ event will be held this Thursday in Wanchai. A performance of Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ kicks off at 8:30pm. Ticket proceeds (HK$150) go to The Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women (though the event has now sold out)

Hours after the rally, it emerged that a second helper was suing the employer of Erwiana. The ex-employee applied for legal aid last Thursday.

Justice for Erwiana Committee leader, Sringatin said that…

“Erwiana’s ordeal merely served to highlight the fact that in may parts of the world, migrant women are not adequately protected from abuse by their employers, recruitment agencies and governments. Even Hong Kong that prides itself for being highly-civilised and abiding by the “rule of law” does not conform to international standards on the treatment of domestic workers, maintaining such oppressive policies as the mandatory live-in arrangement, 2-week rule in between contracts and over-reliance on private recruitment agencies”

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Last week, HK Helpers Campaign travelled to Lombok in Indonesia. After Java, it is where most Indonesian maids come from.

Mr Syota, head of the Lombok government department responsible for defending migrant workers against abuse, admitted that the recruitment process for helpers should be tightened. He also claimed that training schools already educate prospective helpers on defending against abuse. However, it is more often the case that Indonesian training centres teach recruits to be ‘submissive’ to employers.

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Mr Suttud (top-right), from the Indonesian recruitment agency licensing department in Mataram, said that there were 213 cautions made to agencies in 2013, yet no suspensions. This is despite that fact that many agencies illegally collude with Hong Kong agents and moneylenders to keep helpers in debt bondage for months.

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Meanwhile, Erwiana was released from hospital last week and expressed a desire to seek justice. Her alleged abuser was released on HK$500,000 bail and is due in court next month.

Quote from Erwiana

Image via AFP

Two weeks ago, Immigration Department chief Eric Chan was asked why officials failed to act when Erwiana passed through Hong Kong’s airport on January 10th, covered in burns and barely able to walk. He said “It is difficult to judge whether there were injuries because of her complexion. We cannot blame the officer.”

Share your thoughts with Mr Eric Chan Kwok-ki by emailing, telephone 2829-4141 or 2829-4142 or fax for free via Outfax at 2827-0662. Or write to Chief Immigration Officer Mr Eric Chan, Immigration Tower, 7 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Ask him to provide information to helpers in their native tongue, to file ALL complaints by migrant workers with a promise to respond within 24-hours. Ask him to employ independent NGOs to educate newcomers to the city about their rights. And ask him to scrap the internationally condemned ‘2-week’ rule and increase transparency within the Immigration Department.