Beaten Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih demands to know why Hong Kong abuser was released from jail early
- Law Wan-tung was sentenced to six years in 2015 but was let out months ago, and now her whereabouts are unknown
- The former employer is yet to pay HK$809,430 in damages to Erwiana as ordered by the court
Hong Kong prison authorities were on Thursday under mounting pressure to explain why an employer who made headlines around the world for torturing Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was released from prison after serving only about half of her six-year sentence.
Erwiana and Tutik Lestari Ningsih, another Indonesian helper abused by the same woman, joined supporters in demanding an explanation from the Correctional Services Department.
Law Wan-tung was found guilty of assault in February 2015 and is yet to pay HK$809,430 in damages to Erwiana and HK$170,000 to Tutik as ordered by the court.
Erwiana on Thursday called the original six-year sentence “not adequate for the terrible crimes Law committed”, and said she felt powerless against the decision to release her early.
The Indonesian demanded an apology from Law and a promise that she would never do such “evil things” again.
“I felt very sad and disappointed when I learned Law had been released,” Erwiana was heard saying in an audio recording played at a press conference organised by migrants’ groups.
In comments later made to the Post she added: “Prison might not be the only place that can make people repent their crimes, but at least [jail time] serves as a lesson to her.”
Woman who tortured Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih released from prison despite serving less than two-thirds of her sentence
In January 2014 Erwiana was spotted by another Indonesian worker at Hong Kong airport with bruises all over her body. She had suffered eight months of physical and emotional abuse, and Law had then tried to put her on a flight back to Indonesia.
When the case came to trial, the court heard how Erwiana had been beaten frequently, knocked out on one occasion, and even had a metal vacuum cleaner tube shoved in her mouth.
On Wednesday, Yvonne Cheung, a lawyer with the justice department who is pursuing Law for HK$200,000 over a separate, failed legal action, told the High Court that Law had been released from Lo Wu Correctional Institution a few months prior. Cheung said she had been unable to “ascertain Law’s whereabouts”.
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Inmates can earn a one-third reduction on their sentences through good behaviour, but it was unclear why Law served less than four years.
“It is my hope that Law Wan-tung can admit her wrongdoings, apologise to the victims and resolve never to do the same thing to anyone ever again. She must also pay the overdue compensation that I and the other victims deserve,” Erwiana said in the audio recording.
Tutik said she was also “very upset and disappointed”, and that Law had not even apologised.
Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, general manager of the Mission for Migrant Workers, said Law had not shown any remorse or paid a cent of the damages she owed.
Eni Lestari, spokeswoman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, said the early release was an injustice and sent the wrong message to employers. Migrant workers’ groups were discussing how to ensure Law paid the damages, she said.
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On Thursday the Correctional Services Department offered the same reply it had issued a day earlier.
“To protect individual privacy, we cannot disclose the personal data of a person in custody,” it said.
A source close to the matter said Law had been part of an early release scheme and would be subject to supervision until her jail term expired.
Hong Kong is home to 380,000 foreign domestic workers, who make up almost 10 per cent of the city’s working population.
Their number is projected to surge to 600,000 by 2047 to meet rising demands from Hong Kong’s ageing population, according to labour and welfare minister Dr Law Chi-kwong.
Under Hong Kong’s Prisoners (Release Under Supervision) Ordinance, a person serving a jail term of three years or more can apply for early release under the Release Under Supervision Scheme, when he or she has served not less than half or 20 months of the sentence.
A prisoner can also apply for early release under the Pre-release Employment Scheme if the inmate has been given a sentence of two years or more and is within six months of the earliest date of release.
Both schemes are aimed at facilitating early reintegration into society. A supervision board considers applications.
Security minister John Lee Ka-chiu said in a written reply to lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai last October that when reviewing applications the board considered reports from the Correctional Services Department, police and medical reports.
“The board shall also consider factors … such as an applicant’s criminal record, his conduct in prison, and his ability and readiness to assume obligations and to undertake responsibilities,” Lee wrote.
The board would then submit recommendations to the security minister for consideration, Lee added, who may exercise the powers delegated by Hong Kong’s chief executive under the ordinance to make decisions.
Between 2012 and September last year, the board considered 589 applications for the two schemes and approved 237.