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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 8:30pm
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih
NewsHong Kong

Indonesian helper, 23, in critical condition after alleged beatings by Hong Kong employers

Police refuse to investigate case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih without more details

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 January, 2014, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 2:56pm

Hong Kong police have refused to pursue an investigation into the case of an Indonesian domestic helper who has been left in a critical condition after she was allegedly abused and beaten by her Hong Kong employers.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih is currently undergoing treatment at an Indonesian hospital after leaving Hong Kong following eight months of alleged abuse, said the Hong Kong branch of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers.

A police spokeswoman said the case has not been turned over to an investigation officer. She said: “The helper’s employment agency made a report to police on January 12 but the agency did not provide evidence to confirm where her injuries came from. We can just hope to get more details." 

This has drawn shock and disappointment from the city’s lawmakers and human rights advocates.

“Anytime someone is physically harmed there is no reason why police should not investigate,” lawmaker Charles Peter Mok said today.

Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, of the Labour Party, said: “If a person is killed and no one reports the murder, I wouldn’t think police would want to wait for someone to turn up to provide evidence before starting an investigation.”

Sulistyaningsih had arrived in Hong Kong on May 27, 2013 to work for employers in Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories. She returned to Indonesia on the evening of January 10, requiring assistance from a friend to walk through Hong Kong airport because much of her body, including legs and feet, were covered in cuts and burns, according to Sringatin, spokeswoman for the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers.

Her employer had given her HK$100 and a t-shirt and asked her not to speak with any Indonesians before boarding the plane, said Sringatin. Sulistyaningsih had not sought help from airport customs officers, according to the Immigration Department. 

The 23-year-old is currently in a “critical condition” in Amal Sehat Islamic Hospital in the city of Sragen, Central Java Province of Indonesia, and it is unknown when she will be released from hospital, said Sam Aryadi, Vice Consul for Public Affairs for the Indonesian Consulate General of Hong Kong. Aryadi said the consulate is currently preparing a formal report for police.

But advocates are calling on Hong Kong police to investigate the case immediately.

“In such an extreme case of violent abuse, it would strike me as the police’s responsibility to investigate and gather evidence, not agencies to find evidence prior to the police making an investigation,” said Robert Godden, Asia-Pacific Campaign Coordinator at Amnesty International.

Godden said there are elements in Sulistyaningsih’s case, such as the alleged HK$18,000 fees that she was required to pay to her employment agency, which should raise alarm about the possibility that her situation constituted a case of human trafficking. Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations as “use of force or other forms of coercion…for the purpose of exploitation.” Hong Kong should coordinate with Indonesian authorities to investigate more details of the case, said Godden.

Sulistyaningsih’s employment agency, Chan’s Asia Recruitment Centre, which is based in Causeway Bay, did not respond to South China Morning Post’s requests for comment. Hong Kong law stipulates that agencies can charge helpers no more than HK$401, but Godden said it is common for agencies to charge as much as HK$21,000 and some would withhold helpers’ passports, employment contracts and bank cards until the debt has been repaid.

Leo Tang Kin-wa, organizing secretary at the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, raised concerns that Sulistyaningsih was scared to file a report to police because of Hong Kong’s mandatory “live-in” policy for domestic helpers.

“Why did this case just come to public attention after the helper returned to Indonesia? It is because Hong Kong has failed to provide a safe environment for workers. She was forced to live with her employers, and there were no public-funded crisis shelters for helpers that she could have escaped to. It is very hard for helpers in Hong Kong to seek help.”

Mok said that the government should “revisit” mandatory live-in rules to assess whether abolishing the rule would reduce the occurrences of abuse cases, and Cheung said the government should also consider removing the “two-week” rule.

“If helpers want to quit abusive environments they would have to press charges within two weeks and afterward cannot work and have no ways to sustain themselves in Hong Kong,” Cheung said. "Many choose to return instead to their home countries, saddled with agency fee debt." 

Last September, the employers of Indonesian helper Kartika Puspitasari, described by the presiding judge as “cruel” and “vicious”, were found guilty of systematic abuse over the span of two years.


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This article is now closed to comments

Hong Kong does not charge these fees. Their home countries do. I am fed up with people acting like HK is charging them $21,000. Hong Kong is only responsible what happens in it boarders. Not what happens in other countries. Indonesia does not stop this practice because the politicians are corrupt.
I am not sure why people believe the police are doing a bad job. Hong Kong is the safest place I have ever seen. I feel no threats when going out at night. I have never seen fighting. I don't see public drunkedness except foreigners in wan chai / central. I have never seen illegal drugs. If I need directions I will often ask a police officer.
I am not sure what people think police should be doing. If it is too keep people safe a serve the community then Hong Kong police are amongst the top in the world.
The police should find these people who did this to her and string them up!!!!
Hong Kong's crime rate is low because of many factors. The standard of living is generally good, employment is high, public services work and yes there is rule of law because the British left an efficent legal system. The HKP clearly plays a factor in this. However to reflect on how good is the HKP lets look at detection rates through investigation to assess how 'good' the HKP is at its job. Here the HKP falls well below international standards.
However I concur that we should not jump to conclusions. A formal complaint is required. A statement of facts from the victim is needed. Amnesty International, get off your high horse and be practical for once.
What there are Hong Kong people strong enough to beat a woman?? Where are they? Cause all we see is physically incomplete boys and girls, with big nerds glasses, without any social skills.
Of course the HK police haven't done anything about it yet............they look down on the foreign domestic helpers and are simply hypocrites.........don't expect too much from the HK police force cause they are a bunch of incompetent idiots.
Shameful, very shameful : this particular case, and the broader scandal of charging these maids such exorbitant fees. Selective law enforcement?
While the above case has not been proven, it certainly warrants a police investigation.

In HK, employers do not typically treat non-professional employees well in Hong Kong. Foreign domestic helpers are literally the bottom of the hierarchy, with little oversight or avenue for redress. They are most easily exploitable--they know little of the local environment, they do not speak the local language, etc. Perhaps there should be a labor union for foreign domestic helpers.

I have always advocated against foreign domestic helpers at wages below what you would pay to an equivalent local worker. This is exploitation at its worst.
Lets not judge HKP too early. Theres more than meets the eye here. A case like this, if Indo govt believes it happened, it will be jumping up & down with diplomatic consequences. That has not be reported yet.
As a record, HKP is one of the finest. Just look at HK crime rate.
If domestic helpers do not have to live with their employers then where will they live? There are 300,000 domestic helpers in Hong Kong. If we consider 5 domestic helpers per 2 bedroom apartment (500 sq feet) Hong Kong would need an additional 60,0000 apartments.
Hong Kong does not have 60,000 extra apartments and does not have the ability to build them within the next 10 years.
Someone may answer that those whose employers are willing to provide external accommodation should be allowed to. This will just make the situation worse as wealthy people who have the $$ will generally have larger apartments and the maid will have more space.
Maids that go with employers without the finances will feel depressed and believe that their situation is poor compared to friends. You will also have domestic helpers continuously trying to find employers who provide external accommodation which will ruin the relationship with their current employers.



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