An Indonesian maid told a court yesterday that she was forced to endure degrading, slave-like conditions while working for a couple who constantly beat her for no reason and failed to pay any wages or allow her to have holidays for two years.
Kartika Puspitasari, 30, testified in the District Court yesterday against her former employers, Tai Chi-wai, 42, and Catherine Au Yuk-shan, 41. The pair denied seven counts of assault and one of false imprisonment.
The court heard on Friday that Kartika had been left tied to a chair in a diaper for five days while the family went on holiday.
Kartika said the job was her first as a domestic helper in Hong Kong. She arrived at the couple's home on July 22, 2010. Her nightmare began when she moved with the couple and their three children, aged three to 10, to their new flat in Tai Po in October 2010.
The maid said Au threw away all her clothing, including her underwear, leaving her with nothing to wear. Au then gave her some oversized old clothing, but no underwear or bras. Kartika said Au also cut off all her hair, and wanted to cut it again when it began to grow back. When Kartika refused, she said Au threatened her with a box-cutter and said: "If you do not cut it off, I will kill you." The maid said Au then slashed her forearm and her waist with the blade, showing the scars on her arm to the judge.
In the new flat, Kartika said she was allowed to sleep only in the kitchen. She worked seven days a week, was not allowed any holiday, and never got paid.
She said Au constantly assaulted her, sometimes hitting her in the back of the head with wire hangers, or in the mouth with the heel of her shoe. She also used a hot iron to scald her cheek and forearm. She said on one occasion, Au used plastic cable ties to tie her to a chair and then beat her about the face with a 2-1/2 foot bicycle chain. The maid said the beating was very painful and that she lost a piece of a front tooth.
She said Au then left her tied to the chair and went to work. An hour later, Tai returned, but instead of releasing her, he also beat her with the chain.
Kartika said most of the acts of violence directed at her appeared to be for no reason. She said that while she was working for the couple, she was not allowed to leave the flat alone. She could leave only when Au took her out with the children. She had no key to the flat and Au kept her passport in a secret hiding place.
Between June 27 and July 1 last year, the family went on holiday to Thailand. Kartika said that before leaving, Tai tied her legs to a chair and tied her hands behind her back. He did not leave any food and water for her. Kartika said she tried to free herself but could not. She was left tied up and alone in the kitchen for five days. She said she was starving, dehydrated and had to urinate where she sat until the family returned from their holiday.
She said the situation became even worse when the family moved to another flat in the same district in September last year.
Kartika said the couple tied her hands and legs every night, and pushed her onto the toilet before they went to sleep. She said even in the daytime, she was tied up and untied only when the couple wanted her to work.
Kartika said Tai tied her up particularly tightly on October 8 last year, and that she tried to loosen her restraints by moving her legs. In the morning, Tai found the restraints were loose. Kartika said he hit her in the face and said: "If you run away, I will smash all your teeth out."
One day when the couple had left the flat, Kartika said she managed to hop, legs tied, to the children's room where she found a pair of scissors. She freed herself and escaped from the flat.
The trial continues today before Deputy Judge So Wai-tak.