Indonesian Maids Tell of Abuse in Hong Kong

By Huiyu Yin

Hong Kong is home to hundreds of thousands of women from Indonesia and the Philippines who work as “helpers” in pursuit of meager wealth. They are an indispensable part of the city’s vibrant economy and society. But incidents of abuse and torture often stay hidden from public view.

Hong Kong's Mission For Migrant Workers (MFMW), a Hong Kong-based advocacy group, released a study last year based on interviews with more than 3,000 foreign domestic workers. According to the study, 58 % said they had experienced verbal abuse; 37% said they worked 16-hour days; 18% said they experienced physical abuse such as slapping and kicking; and 6% said they had been subjected to rape, touching or sexual comments in the homes of their employers. Some reported having to sleep in the bathroom or in the kitchen.

This issue has raised international concerns. CNN, WSJ and BBC have reported real-life tragedies of the Indonesian maids. It is believed that at the heart of the issue is Hong Kong law. The law requires domestic helpers to live with their employers. It also requires them to leave Hong Kong just two weeks after their employment ends, which often forces the domestic workers to endure abuses in order to hold onto their jobs and stay in the country.