Hong Kong woman held on suspicion of abusing Indonesian maids

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 20, 2014 9:34 AM

By Grace Li

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong woman was arrested on Monday on suspicion of abusing her Indonesian maids in a case that has sparked widespread outrage and drawn fresh attention to the risks faced by the migrant community.

A housewife surnamed Law, 44, was arrested at the airport when she was trying to leave for Thailand, Hong Kong police said at a briefing.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a 23-year-old maid who said she had been badly beaten by her employer, is recovering at a hospital in Sragen, a city in central Java, after flying out from Hong Kong in early January.

A second maid, identified only as Susi, who claimed to have been abused by the same employer, also gave a statement to police, saying she had frequently been beaten and abused.

Law was believed to have a connection with the two cases, which would be dealt with as wounding cases, the police said. No formal charges have been laid against her.

Hong Kong, an ex-British territory that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has around 300,000 foreign domestic helpers, most of them from the Philippines and Indonesia. They are excluded from a minimum wage and other basic rights and services.

Ill-treatment of foreign domestic workers in Asian and Gulf regions such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Dubai has been a longstanding problem.

In September a Hong Kong couple were jailed for repeatedly assaulting and torturing their Indonesian maid over a two-year period until she escaped.

Thousands of people rallied in Hong Kong on Sunday to demand justice for Erwiana.

Six officers from the city's police and labor bureau have flown to Indonesia to interview Erwiana, who suffered extensive injuries from head to foot, and collect evidence.

Erwiana said she would be willing to go back to Hong Kong to help with investigation or testify in court if needed but would not return for work, local media reported.

"Hong Kong is a society with the rule of law. For any unlawful act, especially those involving inflicting violence on others mentally or physically, we will not put up with it," Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said with respect to the case earlier on Monday afternoon.

(Additional reporting by Venus Wu)