Erwiana Sulistyaningsih

Indonesian helper 'received death threats from Hong Kong employers who tortured her'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 January, 2014, 5:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 5:24pm

A woman employer accused of torturing an Indonesian maid in Hong Kong allegedly threatened to kill the helper's family if she told anyone about the beatings, it was claimed last night.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23, who alleges she suffered months of abuse in Hong Kong, is recovering in hospital in Sragen, on the main Indonesian island of Java, after returning home last week.

Dita Indah Sari, spokeswoman for Indonesia's minister of transmigration and manpower, said the helper planned to return to help the police investigation against her employer's "unacceptable" behaviour.

Erwiana was not paid or given any days off during her eight months with a family in Tseung Kwan O, according to the Justice for Erwiana campaign at a meeting in Jordan last night.

"She was first beaten after she stole cookies to eat because she was so hungry," said Eni Lestari, campaign spokeswoman and head of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Network.

"She was tortured five times a day. When she developed a skin allergy her employer would beat those areas on purpose.

"When the wounds got infected her employer wrapped them tightly with cloth to hide the stink, making the infections worse. In the end she could barely walk."

It is also alleged her employer made her wear an adult diaper.

Lestari said the injured helper caught the attention of a fellow Indonesian woman on the same flight who persuaded her to reveal what had happened.

Earlier, Sari, who visited Erwiana in hospital, said the maid suffered "psychological trauma", and the abuse had left her with "pus-filled wounds" and unable to walk. "She told us she was hit in the head, and two front teeth were broken after being punched. She also had a black eye."

She was not given a day off and was only allowed to call her family once for four minutes, and her employer still owes her five million rupiah (HK$3,280), Sari added.

Sari added: "When she is healthy again, we will accompany her to Hong Kong to lodge a formal report with authorities."

Doctors hope the injuries will be healed in about two weeks.

Hong Kong police have launched an investigation into the case, classified as wounding after migrant worker groups expressed anger at earlier reports that authorities were not pursuing the case. Officers have visited the employer's home, as have officials from the Indonesian consulate.

There was no response when a Post reporter went to the employer's flat.

Reports in Hong Kong have said Sulistyaningsih could have been abused for up to eight months during her employment with a local family after arriving in May last year.

Sari said Sulistyaningsih planned to return to the former British colony when she had recovered to help in the probe against her employer’s “simply unacceptable” behaviour.

“When she is healthy again, we will accompany her to Hong Kong to lodge a formal report with Hong Kong authorities so they can take action against her employer,” she said.

“We are optimistic that the Hong Kong authorities will take firm action against the employer,” she said, adding that Indonesian authorities were not considering putting a stop to Indonesian maids working in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city.

This morning, Sulistyaningsih gave public statements for the first time to members of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers while receiving treatment at Amal Sehat Islamic Hospital.

“Her condition is improving but she cries anytime someone mentions Hong Kong. She is very traumatised,” Sringatin, spokesperson for the association, told the South China Morning Post.

“When we asked why she did not try to get help earlier, she said that she only knew how to contact her employment agency.

“And when we asked if her employer allowed her to take days off where she could have spoken to other helpers, Erwiana got upset and only said she ‘didn’t want to remember’.”

A campaign called “Justice for Erwiana” will stage a public protest on Thursday outside the office of Sulistyaningsih’s employment agency, Chan’s Asia Recruitment Centre, in Causeway Bay. They have also planned a public protest outside the central government offices in Admiralty on Sunday. 

A spokeswoman for the agency denied any negligence on their part, saying that Sulistyaningsih only complained to the agency once about her employer having “overly high expecations” one month into her employment.

“We filed the original complaint to police and filed another report yesterday to police. We will continue to cooperate in the investigation,” the spokeswoman told the Post. “When Erwiana complained to us last year that her employers had overly high expectations, our staff member went to her employer’s home to explain to Erwiana that she had the right to quit after giving one month’s notice.”