A domestic helper who is the mother of a four-year old daughter suffered unprecedented brutality in Hong Kong at the hands of a “vicious” young Chinese family who inflicted 45 injuries on her by assaulting the helpless young woman with a bicycle chain, clothes hangers, and shoes over a two-year period. She was also tortured [...]

Sunday Times 2

Chinese torturers in Hong Kong inflicted 45 wounds on helper


A domestic helper who is the mother of a four-year old daughter suffered unprecedented brutality in Hong Kong at the hands of a “vicious” young Chinese family who inflicted 45 injuries on her by assaulting the helpless young woman with a bicycle chain, clothes hangers, and shoes over a two-year period. She was also tortured with a clothes iron, a paper cutter, and beaten with fists.

Domestic helpers and a demonstrator rally outside Wanchai District Court in Hong Kong in support of an Indonesian maid who was tortured by her employers (Reuters)

She was punched in the mouth for having a meal without asking. They cut her hair and banged her head on a tap. For two years she slept in the toilet or the kitchen, although immigration department requirements demand a room for a domestic helper to sleep. The woman was also not paid wages and allowances exceeding HK$117,000 (nearly 2 million rupees).

A District Court judge who jailed salesman Tai Chi-wai, 42 and hospital assistant Catherine Au Yuk-shan described the Chinese husband and wife who have three children aged 5 to 11, as vicious and cruel.

Salesman Tai was jailed for three years and three months and Catherine Au, who was convicted of six charges of wounding and assault causing actual bodily harm Wednesday, was sentenced to five and a half years.

The husband, Tai, was convicted of two wounding charges. Outside court on judgment day, protesters held a large placard that denounced “Mr and Mrs Evil”. The helper, 30-year-old Indonesian Kartika Puspitasari, told the media after the verdict that she was “still afraid of them”. She escaped in October last year. She came to Hong Kong in July 2010. This tale of brutality made the front pages of the two leading English dailies in the city, The Standard and South China Morning Post and attracted wide coverage in the local Chinese dailies and TV networks. The helper was assisted in her quest for justice by Indonesian migrant worker groups and diplomatic representatives.

But the judge also noted with concern, what he called unbelievable exaggerations presented to court by the Indonesian woman. Among other things, she had claimed that she was tied to a chair for five days while the family went on holiday.
But medical reports affirmed 45 new injuries on her body, including burns, cuts and wounds. While the defence asserted that the wounds were self-inflicted, Judge So Wai-tak rejected the arguments. A doctor testified that the injuries could not have been self-inflicted. He said there were scars indicating she had also been tied up.

As he sentenced the torturers, Judge So noted that there “was no reason to use violence on helpers, not to mention using them as a tool to vent their anger. The court has a duty to protect people who come from different countries.” The assistance Kartika received was in stark contrast to the helplessness of Sri Lankan helpers facing verbal and physical abuse, injuries and non-payment of wages in Hong Kong.

Sri Lankans have to contend with an impotent Foreign Employment Bureau headed by Amal Senalankadhikara and incompetent consular affairs officials. Domestic helpers say the FEB is more concerned with raking in the USD billions in remittances, collecting fees (Rs 12,000 plus from HK-bound helpers), introducing age restrictions, and forcing intrusive requirements that pry into the privacy of job seekers. All these aim to further reduce the FEB’s responsibilities to citizens and exploit jobless millions who seek economic freedom overseas.

Protection mechanisms are non-existent. More than 300 Sri Lankans, mainly women, are brought home every year in coffins.
The Sri Lanka FEB is also impotent in the face of non-payment of wages, underpayment, overwork, assaults, abuse, injuries, deaths, and overcharging by job agents (some of whom are star-rated by the FEB) who do not issue receipts.

The Sunday Times is aware of Sri Lankan helpers who have faced abuse just like the Indonesian helper Kartika. Several helpers have been forced to lop their hair off immediately after they arrive, others are not provided meals and a place to sleep. Some are denied a day off and there are those who are forced to eat leftovers. This paper is aware of one Sri Lankan mother who was thrown out of the house by the Chinese employer past 11pm on a wintry day. She had no shelter to go to.

Just a few months ago another middle-aged Sri Lankan mother who was not paid and who suffered a broken finger and other physical injuries that required hospital treatment was not helped by the FEB, which offers a hollow “sincere appreciation” of migrant workers on its website. It has removed the email addresses and telephone numbers of its officials from the site, having earlier posted them.

The middle-aged Sri Lankan mother who suffered injuries because the Chinese employer forced her to do dangerous work, was assisted by Christian aid organization Christian Action and a few compassionate Sri Lankans who guided her to collect medical reports and file relevant complaints. She was awarded monetary damages in the Hong Kong Labour Tribunal, which rejected a litany of excuses filed by her cruel employers.

On a previous occasion, the FEB and the Consular Affairs Division of the Foreign Ministry refused to repatriate the remains of a young girl who suffered a gruesome death. She was the sister of two soldiers.

Insistence from Hong Kong based Sri Lankans and the distraught mother in a province, pushed apathetic officials to arrange for the funds to bring the coffin home. The undertakers arrangements were handled by a few Sri Lankan domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

Despite the rare horror stories, Hong Kong remains a rewarding place of work for more than 300,000 helpers of all nationalities, compared with Arab countries.

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