• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 11:04am
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih
NewsHong Kong
LABOUR RIGHTS

Erwiana named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 4:08am

Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih said yesterday that she would not be travelling to New York for an event organised by Time to celebrate being named among the magazine's 100 most influential people in the world this year - as she cannot afford the trip.

Erwiana, 23, has gone from being the alleged victim of abuse at the home of her Hong Kong employer to being listed alongside Pope Francis, Russian President Vladimir Putin and American pop star Beyonce as a global big-hitter.

Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong last year, also features on the list as a pioneer of efforts to expose a global surveillance system used by the United States.

Eman Villanueva, of the Filipino Migrant Workers' Union in Hong Kong, said Erwiana would not be attending the celebratory event because she could not afford the airfare or the cost of hotel accommodation.

" Time will not cover [the costs]," Villanueva said.

Erwiana released a statement yesterday saying that she hoped the recognition would mean governments and the world would pay more attention to the difficult conditions that migrant workers faced.

She said: "There are many workers and migrant workers who are oppressed. Hopefully, the governments and the UN can protect the workers so they will not become victims of abuse."

The magazine praised the former maid for speaking out and drawing attention to "the plight of a vulnerable and often invisible population".

The annual who's who makes its choices from around the globe in five categories: titans, pioneers, artists, leaders and icons.

There are many workers and migrant workers who are oppressed
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih

Front and centre among this year's icons is Erwiana, who has been under the global media spotlight since January after she returned to her hometown in Ngawi, East Java, following months of alleged torture at her Hong Kong workplace.

She returned to the city on April 7 for a week to help police with evidence in the trial of her former boss, Law Wan-tung.

Law, 44, is charged with causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault, and four counts of criminal intimidation against Erwiana and two other domestic helpers. Law is due to appear in court on Tuesday.

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21

This article is now closed to comments

Carparklee
Being a Hongkonger, really feel ashamed to find our place to be mentioned indirectly in such a way at the special edition of TIME magazine 100 years celebration. People in Hong Kong who treat people unfairly should be internally condemned strongly. Of course, the one who alleged to have commit the crime is now being prosecuted but the name of HongKong has already become the collateral damage in addition to the suffering which Ms. Erwiana has gone through.
Yingnam Fong
Erwiana has become a famous person as her name is shown in the "100 most influential persons in world" in the latest US Time magazine. I wonder who is the actual victim, the domestic helper or the Hong Kong people? I know that the some of the DHs working in other countries have received the same bad or even worse treatment in their workplace. Why Erwiana's case has received such high publicity and placed Hong Kong employers in such an embarrassed situation. I know that some remedial actions have been taken to rectify the situation. Why not give the Hong Kongers a break and stop the undue publicity in favour of the DH? This has a very bad side effect as to embolden the maids to boost their confrontation against their employers! I think that enough is enough! By the way, which country is clean and perfect in this regard?
Yknot
You are right to say no country is perfect in this regard and that the situation in Hong Kong is better than in most other places. However, the situation in Hong Kong is far from satisfactory. Agencies continue to break the law.
A survey by the Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs this year found that 60% of domestic helpers surveyed paid more than the legal limit ($410) to agencies to help them find employers and 15% paid over $9000. And agencies, along with employers, illegally keep helpers passports.
Debt bondage is common. A survey by the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union found that 85% of those surveyed had to pay $3000 a month for 7 months to the agency.
Domestic helpers don't have their own rooms. Some sleep on kitchen floors, above toilets or in rooms used to store toxic substances.
Then there is abuse. A Migrant Workers Union survey found that 6% were sexually abused, 18% physically abused and 58% verbally abused.
And should a helper file a complaint, she will be fired, forced to leave Hong Kong within two weeks, and left with no job and means of supporting her family, and debt.
So, I'm afraid that there are very good reasons why Hong Kong has found itself in the international spotlight.
bruk
Indonesian girls are abused mostly because of lack of support from their own consulate, Indonesian agencies are allowed to exploit the girls and the exploitation continues as their are not instructed of their basic rights, some HK employers are aware of that, the way to end this is to educate them. HK government should impose that these girls be made aware of their basic rights before they live their countries. HK is a fair place, domestic helpers here are paid more than any other place in Asia and the middle east. HK is the only country that allows them to protest and voice up their rights. Singapore domestic helpers are paid much less than here, in Malaysia they are not only paid less but many of them are sexually abused, in the Middle East most of them are sexually abuse by their male bosses and than physically abused by the wives of their bosses, they are not allowed to complain if they do they are punished. in Oman Philippine women are sexually abused, burned, beaten, made to work 24 hours a day and left to perish by their own consulate, there are associations created by expatriated women rescuing domestic helpers. I t would be simple to educate them, the immigration department could provide them with a simple leaflet with basic information in their own language. Their own consulate should provide such service and a hotline, it is no brain science.
Yknot
bruk, think about what you are saying. Indonesian girls are abused by the deliberate actions of their employers, not by the consulate or the agencies. No civilized society will tolerate this kind of abuse. I do, however, agree that the consulate doesn't adequately support them and that agencies are interested mostly in just exploiting the girls for the money, but it is employers who abuse them.
And yes, it is worse in other countries. But this doesn't make what happens in Hong Kong right. 6% of helpers are sexually abused, 18% are physically abused, and 58% are verbally abused.
Yknot
It is really sad to see people bringing out the argument: 'if you don't like it then go home'. Hong Kong promotes itself as Asia's world city- and a world city has a responsibility to treat all its residents properly.
The middle class in Hong Kong not only want helpers here but are dependent on helpers. It is the responsibility of ALL in Hong Kong to treat helpers with respect. The provide Hong Kong with an invaluable service.
HK_eh!
it's unfortunate how polarized "maid abuse" is in HK, can't help feeling certain groups are using this as free publicity.
look, NO ONE is FORCING maids to come to HK! If it's so bad, they can choose to work in Singapore, Middle East, other countries! If this abuse is so prevalent, there would be a MAID EXODUS from HK, as the word spreads among the maid communities, AVOID HK.
Is this happening? NO. Not saying HK doesn't need to improve and lead the way for a better place to work, but all this hype is givng the city an unfair perception.
Leave if you don't like it, there are many other places to work.
Yknot
HK_eh! your logic makes no sense. Abuse of domestic helpers is prevalent in Hong Kong. Read the statistics. Salaries are higher here than in Singapore and the Middle East. Abuse is probably worse. However, this doesn't justify abuse in Hong Kong.
Yknot
HK_eh!, how about paying a little more attention to what is going on here and then your comments will not be so ill-informed. Maids are forced to come to Hong Kong. Passports are confiscated by employers and agencies. Helpers are forced into debt bondage. Read the Amnesty International report.
TDHK
well done TIME - I hope this resounds around the world and Law gets the punishment she deserves, even though it will probably not measure up to what she did to those in her employ

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