The Hong Kong woman accused of abusing her domestic workers and breaching labour laws appeared in court in the city on Thursday, in a case that has sparked international outcry and drawn attention to the plight of foreign ‘helpers’.
Law Wan-tung, 44, faces 20 charges including inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages. The three victims are all former employees of Law, including Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who said she suffered months of abuse from her former boss.
Erwiana left Hong Kong in January and was admitted to hospital in Indonesia, emaciated and in a critical condition.
Pictures of her injuries, allegedly inflicted by Law, spread around the world and drew large protests in Hong Kong demanding action be taken to protect vulnerable workers.
Erwiana went on to be named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time.
Law was arrested in January, and is also accused of abusing former employees Nurhasanah and Tutik Lestari Ningsih.
On Thursday, Law showed up at District Court without the entourage of doppelgangers who accompanied her for the last hearing in June – an attempt to confuse the waiting media pack.
She wore dark sunglasses outside the court on Thursday, where a closed pre-trial review was conducted.
Inside the court building on the same floor, at least ten Indonesian women waited anxiously for the result of the hearing, which lasted for about half an hour.
At the entrance of the building, a group of Erwiana supporters braved a downpour to chant “Shame on Law Wan-tung!” as Law, surrounded by her legal team, exited and darted into a vehicle parked outside court.
The group, Justice For Erwiana, also held a banner which read: “End Slavery!”
“Justice for Erwiana. Justice for all migrants. We are workers. We are not slaves,” Eni Lestari, the group’s spokeswoman, led other supporters in yelling.
Lestari called on the Hong Kong government to take action to protect domestic workers in Hong Kong, such as asking employers to buy insurance for their employees.
Law is charged with two counts of inflicting grievous bodily harm, one count of causing grievous harm with intent, one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and one count of common assault, as well as one count of criminal intimidation, all against Erwiana.
She is also charged with one count of common assault and one count of assault causing bodily harm on Nurhasanah, and one count of common assault and one of criminal intimidation against Ningsih.
The charges involving Erwiana allegedly took place at Law’s home in Tseung Kwan O, while those involving Ningsih and Nurhasanah allegedly took place at Law’s former home in Mong Kok.
The other 10 charges are labour-related offences, including denying Erwiana’s wages for seven months, from last May to January. She also allegedly failed to grant Erwiana holidays, as required by Hong Kong law.
Law has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The case is adjourned until August 21 at the District Court for another pre-trial review.