A file photo shows foreign domestic helpers gathering beneath the HSBC building in the Central district of Hong Kong. Photo: AFP
A file photo shows foreign domestic helpers gathering beneath the HSBC building in the Central district of Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

A recent exposé by a newspaper in Hong Kong has shed light on disquieting stories about modern day slavery going on in the city.

The Sing Tao Daily notes that foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong easily fall victim to human trafficking and exploitation in the form of intimidation, coercion or violence.

In one case, an Indonesian worker named Tina only received a meager HK$500 (US$64) a month in wages. This was because her rightful salary of no less than HK$4,520 per month as gazetted by the Hong Kong government, was docked by her agency and employer for years.

Unable to make a one-off payment of a HK$8,000 “referral fee” to her agency, Tina had to pay off the “debt” in installments, meaning that these, as well as other miscellaneous fees, interest and even “fines” were deducted from her monthly pay.

On top of tall this, Tina did not get even a single day off in more than four years. As well as working as a caretaker at her employer’s home, she, under duress, also had to run errands and labor at a fruit stall, according to the newspaper.

Tina explained that her employer lied to her, telling her that foreign workers in Hong Kong did not get leave. It was only through a casual chat with compatriots two years later that Tina realized she was entitled by law to no less than one day off each week. Still, fearing losing her job and being repatriated back to Indonesia, she nonetheless decided to remain compliant.

After another two years had passed, her contract was terminated by her employer simply because Tina demanded a pay rise, meaning she had to return to her poverty-stricken hometown.

Another case involved a Sri Lankan called Malika, who collapsed from the strain of cleaning four villas as well as packing goods at her employer’s shop. She was told to resume her laboring work less than four days after being discharged from hospital. It was later revealed that she was paid HK$2000 per month.

Malika was rescued by police and volunteers from Stop Trafficking of People, a local non-governmental organization, after an ordeal of almost two years, and was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her employer is being investigated by the police. The case is being described as another affront to human rights and dignity by local and overseas media.

Mina, another Indonesian worker, was made by her employer to live in a cramped, windowless squatter home in a remote village in the northern New Territories to take care of as many as 19 dogs.

Mina had to sleep with the dogs in putrid, foul-smelling quarters covered in excrement. Before long her contract was ended by her employer to dodge responsibilities and compensation claims after she was bitten and hospitalized.

Read more: US slams HK’s failures in annual human trafficking report

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