'Scrap live-in rule if you really want to stop abuse'
Tough new rules that aim to protect foreign domestic helpers will have little effect unless the government scraps two policies that foster abuse, rights groups say.
The rule requiring helpers to live with their employers leaves them vulnerable and unable to escape abuse, said Eni Lestari, spokeswoman for the Justice for Erwiana and All Migrant Domestic Workers Committee.
And the rule stipulating they leave the city within two weeks of their contracts terminating discourages them from reporting abuse, Lestari added.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has flatly rejected calls to scrap the contentious live-in rule, but last week he announced the city would overhaul the regulation of foreign domestic help and review punishments for unscrupulous employment agencies. Supervision would also be stepped up.
"Those measures will only help a little. They will not stop the abuses," said Lestari.
As well as scrapping the live-in and two-week exit policies, she suggested the government set up a 24-hour hotline in the Indonesian and Philippine languages.
Mabel Au, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said the city had become a focus point for abuse following a series of allegations.
Prosecutors have identified Indonesian helpers Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23, Tutik Lestari Ningish and Nurhasanah as possible victims of abuse by Law Wan-tung, 44.
Another worker, Anis Andriyani, 25, has alleged abuse by a different employer.
The courts will hear their cases on March 25 and April 23, respectively.