An overstayer has had her claim for $14,000 in unpaid salary thrown out by the Labour Tribunal because she earned the money illegally. The decision was criticised by unions, which said the legal system failed to protect illegal workers being exploited by employers. Wu Qiaoyu, 26, from Fujian province, arrived in Hong Kong on a one-week travel visa in December. But she overstayed and claimed she worked as a housekeeper for a Hong Kong man, Hui Mei-lun. Yesterday she told the tribunal that Mr Hui had promised her $3,000 a month, but stopped paying her after the first month and called police to arrest her for overstaying in June. But in a statement to the tribunal, the employer claimed Ms Wu had been his girlfriend and had lived in his flat in Chai Wan. Ms Wu is staying in Hong Kong on recognisance and has not been charged. Presiding officer Rickie Chan Kam-cheong said the employment of an overstayer was not recognised under the law, so Ms Wu did not have legal grounds to make claims against Mr Hui. Police confirmed yesterday there was no evidence to show Mr Hui had hired Ms Wu. The Immigration Department refused to comment on individual cases. Chung Yuen-yi, organising secretary for the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which helped bring the case to the tribunal, complained the legal system failed to protect overstayers and illegal migrants from exploitation. Ms Chung said more employers would hire overstayers and illegal migrants if the tribunal failed to order them to pay. According to the Immigration Department, 4,788 visitors were arrested up to October this year for working illegally in Hong Kong and 242 employers were prosecuted. Employers who hire illegal workers face a $350,000 fine and a three-year jail term.