Hong Kong mother accused of beating maids with mops, clothes hangers gets bail

Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:19am EST
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By Venus Wu and James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong mother of two who a court heard punched her maids, beat them with mops and threatened to kill their relatives was released on bail on Wednesday after she was formally charged in a case that has triggered outrage.

Police arrested former beautician Law Wan-tung at the airport on Monday before she boarded a flight to Thailand, since when she has been jeered as a monster on trips between the police station and her home.

Law, 44, dressed in a black jacket, appeared calm as the charges, including those of wounding, common assault and criminal intimidation, were read out.

The judge released Law on bail of HK$1 million ($128,900) despite calls from the prosecutor to keep her in custody given the severity of the suspected abuse over many years, and the risk of her leaving Hong Kong. The next hearing is on March 25.

The prosecutor described how Law had maltreated several former domestic helpers including 23-year-old Indonesian Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who is now recovering from injuries in a hospital in Sragen, central Java.

"She began hitting her non-stop, she scratched her, slapped her and pushed her head against the wall and punched her nose and teeth," the prosecutor said.

The court also heard how Erwiana and other former domestic helpers had been hit with various objects including clothes hangers and mops. Law threatened to kill their relatives if they disclosed the abuse, the prosecution said.

Doctors treating Erwiana say burns on her body were caused by boiling water. Grisly photographs of her battered face and body circulating online have sparked accusations of "modern-day slavery".   Continued...

Law Wan-tung (2nd L), who has been charged with two counts of wounding, one count of common assault and three counts of criminal intimidation, walks next to her husband (2nd R) as they leave a court in Hong Kong January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu