Thousands of people rallied in Hong Kong on Sunday to demand justice for a young Indonesian maid who was badly beaten by her employer in a case that has sparked widespread outrage and a police investigation into accusations of torture. The ill-treatment of foreign domestic workers in Asian and Gulf regions such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Dubai has been a longstanding problem but the severe injuries suffered by the Indonesian maid have drawn fresh attention to the risks faced by this migrant community.
“We are workers. We are not slaves,” chanted a crowd of several thousand domestic workers and their supporters as they marched to Hong Kong’s government headquarters. Some waved the red and white flag of Indonesia, while others held up grisly photographs of the battered face and body of the 23-year-old maid, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih.
“We have to end modern day slavery like this,” said Ila Hasan, 32, a domestic worker from Indonesia’s island of Java, who wore a red shawl and a blue bandana emblazoned with the word ‘Justice’. “The employer isn’t human. These things shouldn’t happen.”
Hong Kong police and the labour bureau are now investigating the case and will interview Erwiana on Monday, said Eni Lestari, the head of advocacy group the International Migrants’ Alliance. A second maid also gave a statement to police, saying she had frequently been beaten and abused by the same employer. No formal charges have yet been made against the Hong Kong employer, who also reportedly threatened to kill Erwiana and her family if she revealed the abuse she suffered.
Erwiana is now recovering from her injuries at a hospital in central Java. “I want the ones who tortured and wronged my daughter to be prosecuted and have justice done,” said her father, Rohmad Saputra.