Foreign domestic helpers wait to get their visas in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Foreign domestic helpers wait to get their visas in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A charity says its statistics show that nothing has changed for domestic helpers in Hong Kong since the sensational jailing of an employer a year ago for abusing her maid.

HELP for Domestic Workers (HELP) – a Hong Kong charity providing free legal counseling and practical assistance for domestic workers – revealed on Thursday, that it was assisting more than 1,000 maids every year.

And there is no sign of this number declining even after the abuse case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih emerged in 2014, said Holly Allan, the director of HELP, in an Apple Daily report.

Last year, mother-of-two Law Wan-tung was jailed for six years following her conviction on 18 of 20 charges brought in December 2014, eight of which were for assault and criminal intimidation of Erwiana and another Indonesian maid she had employed, Tutik Lestari Ningsih. Law’s brutal treatment of Erwiana, who still has the scars, sparked international outrage.

Today, it appears nothing has changed. A 38-year-old Indonesian, Ati, was diagnosed with depression and malnutrition in December 2016, around nine months after she began working in Hong Kong as a foreign domestic helper in February.

Her hours were from 10am till 3am the next morning, meaning a stretch of 17 hours daily, looking after two households.

Ati recalled that she had to complete chores at her employer’s home in the morning, then took care of a newborn baby and prepared meals at the home of the employer’s son in the afternoon. She then had to return to cook supper and do more housework in the employer’s home in the evening.

Her daily meals were: two biscuits and a coffee for breakfast, instant noodles for lunch and a dinner. Fearing she would lose her job, Ati did not file a complaint, but did so after a doctor diagnosed her with physical and mental deprivation.

Ati’s employment agency referred her to HELP and in the end the Labor Tribunal ruled that she was entitled to compensation.

In another case, a 35-year-old Filipina named Shella, who came to Hong Kong for the first time as a foreign domestic helper, was completely deprived of privacy. Shella could only sleep in her employer’s living room.

She was forced to sit in the kitchen or toilet whenever the family were in the living room watching television.

Her employer once hit Shella’s head because of a faulty tap.

A neighbor told Shella to seek help and she found her way to HELP. However, as soon as the maid filed a police report against her employer, she was accused of theft. HELP was still assisting Shella, the Sky Post reported.

Allan said many domestic helpers who had sought help from the organization suffered from inhuman treatment, but evidence was hard to gather to be able to press charges against these abusive employers.

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