HELPERS – Tortured Helper Suspect in Court Today as Gov’t Refuses to Alter Rules 1

As the employer accused of torturing Indonesian helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih appears at a Kwun Tong court facing seven charges of abuse, helpers and local people gathered at the Star Ferry last night for a candlelit vigil in her name.

Despite tireless efforts by the Justice Committee, international condemnation, multiple submissions to the government calling for reform and subsequent torture cases, the Hong Kong authorities are yet to announce any change in the rules which enabled the torture of Erwiana.

Today’s court appearance comes as the SCMP revealed that the are no laws protecting domestic workers against human trafficking. Liberty Asia found that, unlike in Macau and Taiwan, Hong Kong law is powerless to protect workers from sexual exploitation, enforced labour, domestic servitude or debt bondage…

“Figures show that between January and July last year, 2,172 foreign domestic workers were granted visa extensions to resolve legal disputes with employers or agencies, but not a single case of trafficking for forced labour was identified by the Hong Kong authorities, the report says.”

Liberty Asia are planning to compile a database of abuse cases to support legal action against agencies and moneylenders. HK Helpers Campaign is also collecting cases to challenge government policy directly.

By definition, helpers who are forced to work off a debt over several months are entrapped in a form of slavery known as debt bondage.

Although there were a record number of complaints against Hong Kong’s 1,200 employment agencies last year, the Labour Department only revoked four licences. It also admitted last week that it kept no record of employers who breach contracts.

Many local people stood alongside helpers in solidarity last night

Pasha from Socialist Action also spoke about government complicity at last night’s vigil…

Dolores from the Asian Migrant Coordinating Body was also a speaker at the event…

Earlier this month, employer groups gathered at government headquarters to rally against reforms that would improve the rights of domestic workers.

Politician Michael Lee held up a comic featuring a racial caricature of a domestic helper at the employer protest

Politician Michael Lee held up a comic featuring a racial caricature of a domestic helper at the employer protest

Over in Java, Erwiana has left hospital and confirmed that she intends to return to Hong Kong to testify against her tormentor. However, her supporters say that she has been placed under considerable pressure by Indonesian authorities who wish to control the criminal proceedings, preventing any wider change in the law. Committee members outside court this morning, via RTHK Committee members outside court this morning, via RTHK.

The next court hearing is on April 29th. Please support the Committee and make a donation to their efforts.

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Members of the Justice for Erwiana Committee supporting Erwiana in Java

Also, check out the HK Helpers Campaign Action Centre – the campaign also accepts donations.

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