HK employer treated Indonesian maid like a 'slave'

HK employer treated Indonesian maid like a 'slave'
Indonesian former maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih (2nd R-in mask) is escorted as she walks out of a court of justice after giving evidence in Hong Kong on January 20, 2015.

A Hong Kong employer, accused of starving and beating her Indonesian maid, treated the woman as an "unpaid slave", prosecutors said yesterday on the last day of hearings in a case which has shocked the city.

In the course of the six-week trial, Ms Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23, described in vivid detail how she was "tortured".

She lived for months on nothing but bread and rice, sleeping only four hours a day.

Once, she was hit so severely by her then-employer Law Wan Tung that she became unconscious.

Pictures of Ms Sulistyaningsih, who was admitted to hospital in Indonesia last January emaciated and in critical condition, sparked widespread anger in her home country and even drew comments from former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors admitted it was "difficult to determine" when the injuries were inflicted but concluded that Ms Sulistyaningsih was enslaved by Law, 44, who denies all charges of abuse, AFP reported.

Said prosecutor Louisa Lai: "The defendant was never satisfied with her work. The question was why did it take seven months for her to send her away? This certainly defies common sense.

"The only explantation was that (Sulistyaningsih) was treated like a slave, an unpaid slave."


Law's defence accused the former maid and another two domestic helpers involved in the case of being "opportunistic".

They said that if Ms Sulistyaningsih's account was true, it would "amount to a horror story".

"The evidence of Ms Erwiana is unsatisfactory... so exaggerated as to impact on its truth," said defence lawyer Graham Harris.

He suggested that her injuries could have been accidental.

"Can you rule out as a reasonable hypothesis that any scar or any damage might have been caused by accidental falls?" he asked the judge.

Law faces 21 charges, some of which pertain to two other former domestic helpers. The charges include grievous bodily harm with intent, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages.

The most serious charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Ms Sulistyaningsih and Law were both in court but neither made a statement.

Protesters outside the court shouted "Justice for Erwiana!" and held placards reading "We are not slaves".

The verdict is set for Feb 10.

Ms Sulistyaningsih's case is one of many maid abuse cases in the region.

In March last year, a Malaysian couple were 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 20kg in seven months.

The defendant was never satisfied with her work. The question was why did it take seven months for her to send her away?

This article was first published on January 21, 2015.
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