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Old 16-01-2014, 05:56 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Beaten and Exploited, Indonesian Maids Are Hong Kong’s ‘Modern-Day Slaves’

Beaten and Exploited, Indonesian Maids Are Hong Kong’s ‘Modern-Day Slaves’

Another case of brutal mistreatment points to a systemic failure to protect domestic workers

When Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih departed from Hong Kong last Friday, she left a nightmare behind her. Eight months of alleged beatings by her employer had disfigured the 23-year-old so badly she was barely recognizable. A gaunt, pockmarked face with chipped teeth had replaced her once smooth, girlish features. Her feet, scalded with hot water, were black in color and had open sores.
Her case is another damning instance of the abuses faced by foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Foreign maids have been a ubiquitous feature of Hong Kong life since the 1970s, when the city’s economy began to boom. Local women entered the labor force on a large scale and hired domestic workers from the Philippines, and subsequently Indonesia and Thailand, to keep households running.
After decades of toiling away in the anonymous confines of Hong Kong’s high-rise homes, domestic helpers, now numbering around 300,000, are making their voices heard more effectively, campaigning for better working conditions, higher wages and entitlement to permanent residency.

True, legal protections are better in Hong Kong than in the Middle East and other East Asian countries that are large markets for foreign domestic workers, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Singapore. But helpers in Hong Kong are nonetheless vulnerable and often defenseless once disaster strikes. A 2012 Mission for Migrant Workers survey found that 18% of migrant domestic workers in the city had been physically abused. The Indonesian maid Kartika Puspitasari became a cause célèbre last summer, when her two-year-long torture in the hands of a sadistic couple was made public. The revelation of Erwiana’s ordeal throws an uncomfortable spotlight on the treatment of domestic workers yet again. Unable to walk when she arrived home, Erwiana needed the help of a fellow domestic worker she met at Hong Kong International Airport. Five days after arrival, she is still in hospital, but her uncle Shomat tells TIME she is doing better. “We were shocked, and we feel pained seeing her in this condition,” he says.

If she is lucky, Erwiana will get justice. Her family says they are determined to seek legal action against her former employer, and the Indonesian government has pledged to provide a lawyer for her. Other Indonesians, however, may never get redress. In a November report, Amnesty International singled out Indonesians as particularly vulnerable in Hong Kong. Unlike Filipinas, the other major group of domestic helpers in Hong Kong, Indonesians are required to find employment through recruitment agencies. These agencies are supposed to provide them with training, set up their contracts and arrange their visas. However, Amnesty found that the agencies failed to adequately represent the interests of women on their books.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih is being tended to at a hospital in Sragen, Indonesia, on Jan. 15, 2014. Unable to walk after months of being physically abused by her employers in Hong Kong, the 23-year-old returned to Indonesia five days earlier with the help of a fellow domestic worker Ina, an Indonesian helper who prefers to be known by her first name, was brusquely awakened and thrown out of her employer’s house one night. “I spent the night crying in the lobby,” she says. “I was so surprised.”

Before she left, she was made to sign a document, which she didn’t understand. In the morning, she went to the only place she could think of, the agency that had recruited her, and they explained to her that she had just waived her right to outstanding salary and airfare home. But instead of giving her legal advice on how to bring her employer to court, agency staff merely scolded her and reminded her that she still owed them money.

“From the moment the women are tricked into signing up for work in Hong Kong, they are trapped in a cycle of exploitation with cases that amounts to modern-day slavery,” says the author of the Amnesty report, Norma Kang Muico.

Debt is the main tool agencies use to keep a grip on their workers. Women are charged vastly inflated sums — which could reach about $2,700 or five times the minimum monthly wage, above the maximum legal limits set by Hong Kong and Jakarta — for training and other “services,” with their salaries deducted until the fees are repaid. Responding to the increasing number of cases of abuse, the Indonesian government — only too aware of the value to the economy of the remittances made by overseas workers — has come up with a plan to export skilled laborers such as cooks, housekeepers, nannies or caregivers from 2017 on, reasoning that such professionals will be less vulnerable to exploitation than the unskilled women now making up much of the domestic-worker corps.

However, Eni Lestari, chairperson of the Hong Kong–based International Migrants Alliance, says that this is unlikely to bring about change, since agencies will still be in charge of the new training programs. “The government wants to export migrant workers, but they don’t want to do it on their own, so they outsource it to another party,” she says.

To ensure their repayments, the agencies typically insist that employees withstand difficult circumstances. This happened to both Ina and Erwiana, who made distressed calls regarding their abuse. Even if the contract is for some reason terminated, it is still a win-win situation for the agency. Since Hong Kong law only permits domestic workers to stay without employment for two weeks, the women are forced back to the agencies to get a new contract.

Several U.N. committees — including the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the U.N. Human Rights Committee — have urged Hong Kong to review or repeal this two-week restriction, as well as the law requiring domestic workers to live with their employers, which is seen as putting the women at risk of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. But the Hong Kong government claims that it is protecting its own constituency — local employers. It says that opportunistic maids leave employers they are not satisfied with, saddling them with the headache of finding a new maid as well as the additional fee that every new contract incurs.

At Bethune House, an organization in Hong Kong that provides shelter and legal services to domestic workers in distress, project coordinator Esther Bangcawayan receives new women, and hears more stories of abuse, almost every day.

“There is a sense here [among employers] that ‘I brought my house worker here, I want to maximize her,’” says Bangcawayan. “People need to realize that people are people, not commodities.”

— With reporting by Yenni Kwok / Hong Kong

Exploited Indonesian Maids Are Hong Kong's 'Modern-Day Slaves' | TIME.com
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Old 16-01-2014, 06:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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usurping the Filipina .

The Chinese simply should not be allowed domestic servants .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Esther Bangcawayan

“People need to realize that people are people, not commodities.”
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Old 17-01-2014, 12:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
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usurping the Filipina .
Because they work for less money. Even when I was living in HK, I think there was a minimum wage for Filipina maids. Not so for other nationalities.
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Old 17-01-2014, 04:24 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mid View Post
usurping the Filipina .

The Chinese simply should not be allowed domestic servants .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Esther Bangcawayan

“People need to realize that people are people, not commodities.”
Are you suggesting that this problem is unique to Chinese?
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Old 17-01-2014, 06:49 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mid
usurping the Filipina .
Because they work for less money. Even when I was living in HK, I think there was a minimum wage for Filipina maids. Not so for other nationalities.
I don't know how it was 50 years ago but for the past 20 years, there is a minimum wage for all house helpers, regardless of their nationality.
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Old 17-01-2014, 07:00 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mid View Post
usurping the Filipina .

The Chinese simply should not be allowed domestic servants .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Esther Bangcawayan

“People need to realize that people are people, not commodities.”
And some morons shouldn't be allowed to post.

Abuse against servants exist in all countries. There are around 300,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, around half of them from Indonesia. Most of them are happy to work there compared to the situation in their home country. And for each helper complain you can find another employer's complain about how lazy and dishonest his/her foreign helpers is. Racist comments surely wont help solving these situations.
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Old 17-01-2014, 07:29 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perota
don't know how it was 50 years ago but for the past 20 years, there is a minimum wage for all house helpers, regardless of their nationality.
Apologies, I phrased it wrongly. What I meant was the minimum wage for Filipina's was higher. $4,000HK, as opposed to $2,500HK, if I remember right. I would have real trouble remembering something before I was born, I imagine.
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Old 17-01-2014, 08:19 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I attended a High Court case in Hong Kong in which a friend was prosecuting a viperish Hong Kong woman who had stomped her Indonesian amah so badly that her liver had split.

He said to me afterwards that what Hong Kong (as a jurisdiction) had going for it was that sadistic people are held to account for cruelty like this, and that had the servant been back home in Indonesia, and been hurt by an employer, it was hard to envisage a similar outcome, because justice would have been corrupted.

The woman was found guilty, and jailed for several years.
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Old 21-01-2014, 06:36 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Woman who 'tortured' Indonesian maid arrested trying to board flight to Thailand
January 20, 2014


Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 22, was allegedly abused so badly by her Hong Kong boss, she can't walk.

Picture: AFP

A 44-YEAR-OLD Hong Kong woman who allegedly viciously abused her Indonesian maid over eight months, leaving her unable to walk, has been arrested.

Police intercepted the woman at the Immigration Department’s counter at Chek Lap Kok airport as she sought to take a flight to Thailand. She was arrested on a charge of wounding.

The employer allegedly beat Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23, with a mop and other implements daily over eight months, sometimes for no reason at all.

The beatings began a month into her employment, when Erwiana complained to her local agent that she hadn't been paid.

Forced to sleep on the floor, Erwiana said she worked 21-hour shifts, had no days off and was fed just a single bowl of rice a day.

She said in the final weeks of her ordeal, blood and puss ran from her wounds so badly that her employer complained it was staining the carpet.

But instead of taking her to the doctor, the woman allegedly wrapped the maid's wounds in bandages and plastic bags.


Demonstrators protest the abuse of foreign workers in Hong Kong after news of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsi's torture at the hands of her boss.

Picture: AFP

When she could no longer work, the young woman's boss allegedly bought her a ticket home, gave her 70 Hong Kong dollars ($10) and dumped her at Hong Kong airport.

"She told me that she knew a lot of people in Indonesia and if I said anything she would have my parents killed," Erwiana told Al Jazeera, surrounded by her family in a hospital bed in Sragen, Central Java.

Media reports said she was unable to walk due to her injuries when she flew home from the southern Chinese city this month.

Police investigators on Monday travelled to Indonesia to interview Sulistyaningsih, who is being treated at a hospital in Sragen on Java island.

Claims that she had been tortured by her employer sparked an outcry by domestic helpers and others and renewed concern about the treatment of maids in Hong Kong.

Several thousand domestic helpers and rights activists staged a protest on Sunday, calling for a speedy investigation of the case and better protection for maids.

Local groups representing domestic helpers have claimed that two other helpers were also abused by the same employer.

One of them complained to police Sunday about her treatment.

Hong Kong employs nearly 300,000 domestic helpers, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines.

In an earlier case a Hong Kong couple were jailed in September for attacks on their Indonesian domestic helper which included burning her with an iron and beatings with a bicycle chain.

Amnesty International in November condemned the "slavery-like'' conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong and accused authorities of "inexcusable'' inaction.

It said Indonesians were exploited by recruitment and placement agencies who seize their documents and charge them excessive fees, with false promises of high salaries and good working conditions.

The government stipulates a minimum wage and other conditions for foreign domestic helpers, but unscrupulous employers and agencies sometimes ignore this.

news.com.au
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Old 21-01-2014, 09:35 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The only people that employed Indonesian maids when I lived in HK were locals, cheapskates trying to avoid even the minimum amah wage. By all accounts they were useless, which is maybe why they got beaten, but then again pay peanuts.....
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Old 25-01-2014, 08:51 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Ghost Of The Moog View Post
I attended a High Court case in Hong Kong in which a friend was prosecuting a viperish Hong Kong woman who had stomped her Indonesian amah so badly that her liver had split.

He said to me afterwards that what Hong Kong (as a jurisdiction) had going for it was that sadistic people are held to account for cruelty like this
Hong Kong woman accused of abusing, torturing maids detained at airport

Hong Kong woman accused of abusing, torturing maids detained at airport on way to Thailand | South China Morning Post



The suspect is taken by officers from the airport police station to Tseung Kwan O and Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih (inset) lies in a bed whilst being treated at a hospital in Sragen, Indonesia's Central Java province. Photo: Sam Tsang and Felix Wong

A woman accused of wounding two Indonesian domestic helpers - including one who says she suffered prolonged torture - was in police custody last night after being arrested at the airport.

Lo Wan-tung, 44, was intercepted at the Immigration Department counter as she sought to take a flight to Thailand at about 4pm yesterday.

The arrest came amid widespread outrage at the alleged treatment of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who is recovering in hospital in Java from multiple injuries. Erwiana said she was "very happy" to learn of the arrest.
..................
Hours after the arrest, four crime-squad officers arrived in Sragen city, Java, where Erwiana is in hospital. The investigation team, led by Chief Inspector Chung Chi-ming of Kwun Tong district crime squad, left for Indonesia with two labour officers and three consulate staff yesterday.

Hong Kong woman accused of abusing, torturing maids detained at airport on way to Thailand | South China Morning Post

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Old 31-01-2014, 06:19 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Abusing Maids is Hong Kong’s Shame
Isabel Escoda
(Writer Isabel Escoda is a longtime Filipino resident in Hong Kong.)
TUE,28 JANUARY 2014



The recent battering of an Indonesian maid underscores the decades-long plight of foreign domestics in the territory

What happened in Hong Kong to Erwiana Sulistyaningsih would likely never happen to a Filipina domestic helper today. After decades of jousting with abusive employers and corrupt employment agencies, Filipinas have learned their rights and established protective agencies. Indonesians and the other ethnic groups that have followed Filipinas to Hong Kong are not there yet.

The 23-year-old Indonesian fled back to her country bruised and battered after enduring months of violent abuse at the hands of her employer. She had arrived fresh from her village in Central Java, obviously without having been informed of what she should expect from her local employer; nor did she seem aware of any organization that could help in times of distress.

This kind of treatment, an open secret among maids, merits calling the Erwiana case “Hong Kong’s Shame.”

The importation of Filipina women began in the late 1970s when Hong Kong residents felt the need to have servants in their households. This was easily accomplished because the Philippines is just a two-hour flight from the territory. Furthermore, employers found it convenient that the women understood and spoke English (thanks to the Americans who’d colonized their forebears).

Over the decades the trickle of Filipinas grew into a flood, so that by the mid-1990s the yearly South China Morning Post survey of foreign inhabitants in the city showed Filipino citizens topping the list at over 200,000.

Various church groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) sprang up because a many vulnerable migrant domestics were found to suffer various types of abuse. The litany of woes included overwork, inadequate food allowances and rest periods, underpayment or nonpayment of wages, and minor physical and major psychological abuse.

All these showed clearly that the terms stipulated in the labor contract were constantly being flouted. The NGOs took the lead and in the process shamed the Manila government, which had been remiss in providing proper protection for their migrant workers. In the process migrants became a political force back home and the local consulate began offering more services.

The rising awareness among Filipinos of their rights has kept Hong Kong authorities looking for ever-more malleable populations of downtrodden women. First they turned to the Indonesians. The Indonesian government, learning from the Philippine experience of gaining remittances of precious foreign currency, welcomed the chance to boost their economy by exporting their women too. They offered Hong Kong the advantage of having women schooled in basic Cantonese before they were shipped out.

As the Indonesian activist Eni Lestari once described it to me (having undergone the training herself), this involved several months of Cantonese language training during which the women were not let out of the gulag-like conditions of their camp. They were also taught how to remit their wages to Jakarta banks, and to work hard and not complain.

Once the domestics arrive in Hong Kong, the Indonesian Consulate seems more interested in acting as a recruitment agency than in providing protection for workers, Lestari charges. The practice proved so successful that by 2010, the yearly surveys showed Indonesians had overtaken Filipinas in number.

Bangladeshi women, Sri Lankans and Burmese have now been added to the domestic mix. This seems to be the Hong Kong reaction to the fact that Filipinas, thanks to their longer experience here, now have networks they can reach out to when encountering abuse from employers. They have become educated in knowing their rights, thanks to the social workers and publications like that written by lawyer Jim Rice called “Take Your Rights Seriously.”

Given the rising political sophistication back home and outrage in the Indonesia media over cases like Erwiana’s, it seems logical to assume that Indonesian women will gradually become more sophisticated about the ways of Hong Kong also. That will take time.

The Hong Kong authorities, in the face of protests over the Erwiana case, moved to detain her employer at the airport as she attempted to flee to Thailand. And police investigators were sent to Indonesia to get evidence from the victim, who is receiving treatment in hospital. Her constant dizzy spells resulting from having her head banged repeatedly against a wall, plus wounds on her face and limbs, indicate it will take her long to recover. The case is set to be tried in March against her employer who posted HK$1 million in bail.

Hong Kong writer Jason Wordie succinctly summed up the situation: “The treatment of domestic workers in Hong Kong, Indonesians in particular, is a widely known about but generally ignored disgrace. Their plight epitomizes Hong Kong Chinese society’s most loathsome, hypocritical aspects.”

Whether this case makes Hong Kongers admit that modern-day slavery has been practiced here for decades is hard to tell. The more likely scenario will be that the demand for docile females from poor countries will keep escalating amid the frenetic rush to build more wealth in this already rich Chinese enclave. The awareness that human rights for the workers should be observed will probably fall by the wayside.

Sadly, the commodification of female workers occurs around the world, and is very difficult to eradicate overnight especially when capitalist employers are as firmly entrenched as they are in Hong Kong.

asiasentinel.com
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