09 Dec ‘Tortured’ claims former maid in Hong Kong court

Written by AFP Published in Regional Read 1533 times
Former Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23 (C), is escorted by airport personnel, Police and Indonesian consulate staff as she exits the airport and rushed into a waiting car in Hong Kong, China, 07 April 2014. Photo: EPA/JEROME FAVRE Former Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23 (C), is escorted by airport personnel, Police and Indonesian consulate staff as she exits the airport and rushed into a waiting car in Hong Kong, China, 07 April 2014. Photo: EPA/JEROME FAVRE

Hong Kong (AFP) - An Indonesian former maid on December 8 told a court for the first time how she was starved, beaten and ritually humiliated by her Hong Kong employers in a case that has sparked international outrage.

Ms Erwiana Sulistyaningsih described in vivid detail how for months she lived on nothing but bread and rice, slept only four hours a day and was beaten so badly by her former employer Ms Law Wan-tung that she was knocked unconscious.

"I was tortured," she told the packed courtroom through a translator on the opening day of the trial.

"She often hit me... sometimes she would hit me from behind, sometimes she hit me in the front. I was hit so often sometimes I got a headache... She hit me in my mouth (so) I had difficulty breathing."

Law denies all charges of abuse.

Ms Sulistyaningsih's case has shone a spotlight on the plight of migrant domestic helpers in Asia and the Middle East after reports of torture and even killings.

In March, a Malaysian couple was sentenced to hang for starving their Indonesian maid to death, while in the same week a Singaporean couple pleaded guilty to abuse after their helper lost 20 kilos in seven months.

Such cases have prompted a clampdown on domestic worker visas in some countries, Myanmar suspended a seven-month-old scheme in September and Indonesia has pledged to stop sending domestic workers abroad from 2017.

Hong Kong is home to nearly 300,000 maids, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Thousands took to the streets in May calling for better working conditions and greater legal protection for domestic helpers and the case remains a rallying point for many.

Amnesty International last year condemned the "slavery-like" conditions faced by some domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city, and accused authorities of "inexcusable" inaction.

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse