Indonesian domestic worker in Hong KongPhoto: Asia Times
Indonesian domestic worker in Hong Kong Photo: Asia Times

A 27-year-old Indonesian woman, now staying at Bethune House, a temporary shelter for domestic workers in times of crisis, has told of the slave-like conditions she endured for five years under a local employer.

News website interviewed Surati about her dark days as a maid in Hong Kong.

Like many other domestic workers, Surati came to Hong Kong from Surabaya wanting only to earn money for her family.

Everything went well for the first two years. But in 2014, Surati’s female employer became very critical and started to scold her. The verbal abuse later turned physical when she mistakenly locked herself out of her workplace.

Her employer was so furious that she punched Surati in the eye and struck her with a high-heel shoe.

For years Surati woke up at 5:30am and worked for 16 to 18 hours a day. Her employer kept her mobile phone and refused to give it to her.

When her employer decided Surati had made “mistakes”, she showed her a checklist which listed deductions that would be made from her salary to pay for the mistakes.

She gave examples: HK$50 to HK$100 (US$6 to US$12) for not cleaning the house properly, HK$100 to HK$200 for placing the cleaning items in the wrong place, or HK$300 for using hot water for bathing during winter time.

Surati was told by her boss that she needed to take responsibility for any damage to household electrical appliances or other furnishings. She was made to replace a HK$6,000 refrigerator that broke down, and forced to buy a new mattress.

Over a period of five years, Surati claimed that she was only able to send money home eight times.

Surati said that on one occasion she complained to her employer, only to be told that if she resigned and went back to Indonesia, she would not be able to return to work in Hong Kong because she would be blacklisted by the Immigration Department.

“I have no friends, I don’t know Hong Kong laws and it was my first time in Hong Kong, so I was very scared,” Surati said, adding, “I (feel) very stupid”.

The nightmare came to an end when a domestic worker working for a neighboring family saw Surati.

“Why you are still here? Your eyes and legs are injured. It’s useless to stay with this family, you don’t earn money and you are abused,” the other maid said.

Her friend passed her a paper with the telephone number of Mission for Migrant Workers.

Surati finally summoned the courage to escape when no one was home. She ran to the police station and told the police that she was attacked by her employer. She was sent to a hospital for medical examination and is now staying at Bethune House awaiting a court hearing on her wages.

Surati said she misses her husband and her seven-year-old son in Indonesia and hopes her nightmare will come to an end as soon as possible.

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