Domestic workers took to the streets of Hong Kong yesterday, demanding justice for an Indonesian maid allegedly tortured by her employers and better protection for the territory’s hundreds of thousands of foreign maids.
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 22, was reportedly left unable to walk following eight months of abuse in Hong Kong and was admitted to an Indonesian hospital in a critical condition last week after returning home.
Her case is the latest in a spate of abuse claims and has renewed concern about the treatment of domestic helpers in the former British colony following recent criticism by rights groups.
“We are very angry. So many cases have happened on Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong,” Indonesian Migrant Workers Union vice chairperson Sring Atin told reporters.
Dozens of protesters, including maids, rights activists and migrant group members, rallied outside the office of the maid’s employment agency before marching to the territory’s Indonesian consulate. As they marched through the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay, they chanted slogans, including: “We are workers. We are not slaves. Justice for Erwiana.”
The building where the office is located saw heightened security with its grille lowered down and security refusing to allow the protesters to go upstairs.
“It is not only an issue of her being an Indonesian, but her being a migrant worker and a human being,” Eman Villanueva, of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union of Hong Kong, told reporters.
“We from the Philippines are also migrant workers. We know the feeling, being away from home and suffering,” Villanueva added.
He called on the Hong Kong government to improve legal protection for maids and to allow them to choose their own accommodation instead of being required to live with their employers.
Sulistyaningsih remains in hospital in Sragenk Java. Her condition is improving and medics hope her injuries will be healed in two weeks, Dita Indah Sari, spokeswoman for the Indonesian minister of manpower and transmigration, told reporters on Wednesday.
Hong Kong police said on Tuesday they had launched a criminal investigation after migrant worker groups expressed anger at earlier reports that authorities were not pursuing the case.
Hong Kong is home to nearly 300,000 maids from mainly Southeast Asian countries and criticism from rights groups over their treatment is growing.