HONG KONG, Feb 27 – A Hong Kong woman who was found guilty of beating and starving her Indonesian maid and keeping her prisoner faces up to seven years in prison when she appears in court for sentencing today. The case sparked international outrage and highlighted the plight of domestic workers in the city.
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 24, told a Hong Kong court in December how she lived on nothing but bread and rice for months, slept only four hours a day and was beaten so badly by her employer Law Wan-tung that she was knocked unconscious. During the six-week trial, prosecutors said mother-of-two Law, 44, turned household items such as a mop, a ruler and a clothes hanger into “weapons” against her maids.
Law was convicted on 18 of 20 charges laid against her, including grievous bodily harm, assault, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages. Sulistyaningsih said she forgave Law but hoped her former employer would receive the greatest possible sentence, “even though for me, that is still not enough compared to what she did to me and other victims.”
She hailed the court’s guilty verdict but called for reforms to ensure Hong Kong employers no longer treated domestic workers “like slaves.” Sulistyaningsih has also said that Indonesia must not shirk its responsibilities to protect its citizens who travel abroad to work. Pictures of Sulistyaningsih looking frail and skinny and in critical condition at an Indonesian hospital in January last year focused the spotlight on Hong Kong domestic helpers’ rights.
The city is home to nearly 300,000 maids, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines, and criticism from campaign groups over their treatment is growing. Amnesty International in 2013 condemned the “slavery-like” conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian women who work as domestic staff and accused authorities of “inexcusable” inaction.