Hong Kong Police Arrest Woman in New Domestic-Helper Abuse Case

Hong Kong police arrested a woman on allegations she abused a domestic helper, the second to be detained this month on such accusations, as authorities step up efforts to protect foreign maids working in the city.

A 58-year-old woman was arrested in the Mid-Levels on Jan. 25 after her Bangladeshi domestic helper reported physical abuse including hitting and hair-pulling, according to a police spokesman, who asked not to be identified because of the agency’s rules. The 27-year-old maid was sent to the Queen Mary Hospital for treatment, the police said in a statement Jan. 25.

Publicity about abuse cases has heightened awareness of labor rights issues among the city’s foreign worker community. About 4,000 demonstrators, mostly foreign domestic helpers, staged a demonstration at the Indonesian consulate over the weekend, demanding the right to sign contracts with employers without agency involvement, the South China Morning Post said.

“We are very, very concerned,” Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said Jan. 25, according to a government transcript of his comments. “We are considering seriously a number of measures to protect the interest of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong and also to step up enforcement regulation on employment agencies.”

Earlier this month, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a 22-year-old Indonesian helper, said she was abused by her employer Law Wan-tung over eight months. Law, who faces seven charges, was released Wednesday on a HK$1 million ($129,000) bail until a hearing scheduled for March 25, the South China Morning Post reported Jan. 22. A second Indonesian maid identified only as Susi, 31, said she was abused between April 2010 and March 2011, the newspaper reported.

Money Lending

Measures may include creating hotlines, requiring new domestic helpers take classes to educate them on labor rights and tightening operations of employment agencies, according to a statement with Cheung’s comments.

“We are also considering requiring the agencies, as a licensing condition, not to get involved in money lending business,” Cheung said according to statement with his remarks.

There are more than 300,000 foreign maids who work in the city, the majority from Indonesia and the Philippines, some who must go into debt to get job placements.

Indonesian officials responded positively to a suggestion that Jakarta grant low-interest loans to Indonesian maids working in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post cited Cheung as saying. An investigation team left for Indonesia on Jan. 20 to collect evidence and take statements, according to the police.

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