Erwiana Sulistyaningsih

Woman accused of abusing Indonesian helper Erwiana pleads ‘not guilty’ to all charges

Law Wan-tung denies all charges - totalling 20 counts - including grievous bodily harm and failure to pay wages

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 1:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 6:42pm

The allegedly abusive former employer of an Indonesian helper has denied all 20 charges against her for abusing her three maids and breaching labour laws - in a case that sparked international concern.

Law Wan-tung, a 44-year-old mother of two, was arrested in January for seriously wounding Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, her former domestic helper.

She faces charges including grievous bodily harm with intent, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages - a total of 20 counts, some of which also relate to her previous employees.

Prosecutors have said she turned household items such as a mop, a ruler and a clothes hanger into “weapons” against her maids.

Erwiana, who said she suffered months of abuse, left Hong Kong in January and was admitted to hospital in Indonesia, emaciated and in a critical condition.

Before a packed courtroom, Law remained silent and kept her head lowered throughout a brief appearance in the dock, as her defence counsel lodged a plea of not guilty to all the charges.

The case is adjourned to July 10 for pre-trail review. Law’s bail was extended.

The defendant appeared in court today with three women - clad in nearly identical outfits - who could not be identified.

Wearing matching black outfits, sunglasses and face masks - possibly to confuse photographers - they all sat together in the courtroom before the hearing started. They put on black caps as they were leaving the court.

Police officer Chung Chi-ming said outside the District Court that more than a dozen witnesses could be called, including Erwiana, two other maids who were allegedly abused, doctors, and employment agency representatives.

Around 15 members from foreign domestic helper concern groups shouted “Law Wan-tung, shame on you!” on the court steps when Law and her entourage left.

She is accused in 10 charges of kicking, beating and abusing Erwiana, and assaulting two other domestic helpers, Tutik Lestari Ningsih and Nurhasanah.

The other 10 counts of labour-related offences include denying Erwiana’s wages for seven months and failing to grant holidays.

The case highlighted concern over the treatment of domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city, sparking angry protests as well as calls for legislation to provide better protection.

The Asian financial hub is home to nearly 300,000 maids, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines. 

The District Court has scheduled 16 days for the trial of Law in which 40 witnesses including the three alleged victims and expert witnesses will give evidence.