Hong Kong's laws are supposed to protect maids against abuse. Consulate-generals are required to help their nationals in times of need. Domestic helper employment agencies should offer an extra layer of support. How, then, could Indonesian Erwiana Sulistyaningsih have been so badly abused, allegedly by her employer? The answer is simple enough: the system failed the 23-year-old woman, who remains in an Indonesian hospital with horrific injuries.
Foreign domestic workers make up around 3 per cent of the Hong Kong population. In 2013, there were some 320,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong, of which 50 per cent were from the Philippines, 47 per cent from Indonesia, and the rest from Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Hong Kong law states that such workers must reside with their employers. Their wages are subject to a statutory minimum of HK$4,010 per month from September 30 last year. There have been several high-profile court cases in which domestic workers have alleged torture and abuse at the hands of their employers. According to a 2013 report by Amnesty International, Indonesian migrant domestic workers are at risk of serious human and labour rights violations in Hong Kong.