Indonesian maid will fight on after HK court victory

Indonesian maid will fight on after HK court victory
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih (C orange jacket) is mobbed by well-wishers as she walks through Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on March 1, 2015.

HONG KONG - As she walks through Hong Kong's Victoria Park on a busy Sunday afternoon, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih is stopped every few steps for photos and hugs.

Most of her fans are Indonesian domestic workers enjoying their weekly day off, gathering as they always do for food, dancing and a chat, but there are Hong Kong families too.

This is the former maid's final day in Hong Kong after winning her case against the abusive employer who beat, starved and kept her prisoner.

On Friday, Law Wan-tung, 44, was sentenced to six years in prison on 18 charges including grievous bodily harm, assault, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages in a case that made headlines around the world.

It has turned the 24-year-old Indonesian into a hero for many of her peers, and though her case shone a spotlight on the abuse often suffered behind closed doors, she isn't finished yet.

"I still want to help my fellow migrant workers who are abused and neglected by my own government," she told AFP.

"If there's an opportunity, I would like to create a foundation to help with these issues and to educate the Indonesian community so that they can understand our basic problems outside the country and back in Indonesia."

Softly-spoken and slight, with newly bobbed hair and huddled in a quilted orange jacket, she is sceptical that Indonesia will take meaningful action to protect migrant workers, arguing that the problem is so multi-layered and deep-rooted there is no quick fix.

Systemic Problem

From a poor farming family in east Java, Sulistyaningsih's parents could not afford to send her or her brother to university.

After graduating from high school she worked as a waitress but was determined to save up for college and to help support her family financially, so moved to Hong Kong to join its army of domestic workers in 2013.

The city is home to nearly 300,000 maids, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Sulistyaningsih says her story highlights Indonesia's endemic problems - a lack of job opportunities and an unaffordable further education system.

"The government should provide accessible education especially for poor people," she says, as well as helping to create "decent jobs for decent pay, not just profit for investors."

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