Erwiana Sulistyaningsih

Abuse cases won't deter Myanmar maids, says lawmaker Felix Chung

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 4:29am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 4:48pm

Myanmar will go ahead with plans to send domestic helpers to Hong Kong, says a Liberal Party lawmaker and an investor in the country, despite the latest allegations of abuse raising concerns for maids' safety.

Felix Chung Kwok-pan met Myanmar's labour minister, U Aye Myint, on Monday - after the former employer of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was charged with abusing the 23-year-old, who remains in hospital in her home country, and two other maids.

"The minister brought up the case [of Erwiana] in the meeting and asked if there was any legislation in Hong Kong that protects the foreign maids," said Chung.

"But Myanmar still finds the plan attractive … I don't think the widely reported case of Erwiana will be a big problem."

Chung, who is involved in building a garment-manufacturing facility in Myanmar, said he had promised to submit a firm proposal to Myanmar on sending maids to the city, which would also spell out the laws protecting maids. He hoped both sides would meet again in March.

Hong Kong's Golden Mind Employment Agency has already become the first agency in the world to win Myanmar's permission to recruit domestic workers, with the first 55 maids due to arrive by the end of next month.

Another Hong Kong agency, Technic Employment Service Centre, is to have its second meeting with Myanmar officials by the end of February. Chung hoped his negotiations would lead to up to 20,000 domestic workers a year coming to Hong Kong from Myanmar.

He added that Myanmar would also like Hong Kong to provide training as "they are unsure about Hongkongers' requirements and the city's culture and background".

Technic Employment Service Centre's managing director, Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, said the media exposé of the Erwiana case had not affected its deals.

"It has not even affected Indonesians' intentions to work in the city," she said.

Myanmar has emerged as a source of domestic workers after Indonesia said it intended not to send any more citizens abroad to work as helpers by 2017. The Myanmese consulate could not be reached yesterday.

Deputy police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung yesterday said the risk of employers assaulting maids was "not particularly high".