Hong Kong woman guilty of torturing migrant maid

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih leaves court after hearing the verdict. Picture: Getty
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih leaves court after hearing the verdict. Picture: Getty
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A HONG Kong woman who was accused of torturing her Indonesian maid in a case that sparked outrage for the scale of its brutality was convicted of a slew of assault and other charges yesterday.

A judge found Law Wan-tung guilty of 18 charges including grievous bodily harm, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages or give time off work to Erwiana Sulistyaningsih.

Her case highlighted the vulnerabilities of migrants working as domestic staff across Asia and the Middle East.

It gained widespread attention about a year ago after photos of Ms Sulistyaningsih’s injuries circulated among Indonesians in Hong Kong. They showed her face, hands and legs covered with scabs and lacerations, and blackened, peeling skin around her feet.

District court judge Amanda Woodcock said that based on the testimony by the maid and other witnesses, “I am sure the defendant did assault, wound and threaten [Sulistyaningsih] as charged.”

The court heard that Wan-tung punched Ms Sulistyaningsih in the mouth, fracturing some teeth; jammed a metal vacuum cleaner tube in her mouth, cutting her lip; and hit her on the back with a feather duster cane when she was sleeping.

Wan-tung also forced Ms Sulistyaningsih to stand naked in the bathroom during winter while she splashed water on her and pointed a fan at her.

Ms Sulistyaningsih, who worked for Wan-tung for about eight months starting in June 2013, also wasn’t allowed any days off and was not paid her salary.

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Wan-tung was found not guilty of two other charges. She was ordered to pay about 28,800 Hong Kong dollars (£2,440) in outstanding wages to Ms Sulistyaningsih. Wan-tung was remanded into custody and is scheduled to be sentenced on 27 February.

After the verdict, supporters applauded the diminutive Ms Sulistyaningsih, who was in court. She told reporters she was happy “because I will get the justice from Hong Kong”.

Ms Sulistyaningsih and her father told the South China Morning Post that when she returned home in January 2014, she only weighed 25kg, or just under four stone and half her usual weight, and had bruises all over her body.

Wan-tung’s defence lawyers had accused Ms Sulistyaningsih of being “opportunistic” and argued she sustained her injuries because of her clumsiness.

Wan-tung denied all the abuse charges laid against her, but admitted to a separate charge of not buying insurance for Ms Sullistyaningsih.

There are about 330,000 foreign domestic helpers working in Hong Kong, almost all female and most from the Philippines or Indonesia.