February 27, 2015 / 4:33 AM / in 3 years

Hong Kong woman jailed for six years for abusing Indonesian maid

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong mother of two who punched her maids, beat them with mops and threatened to kill their relatives was jailed for six years on Friday in a case that triggered outrage and exposed the plight of millions of domestic helpers across Asia.

A supporter holds up a sign with a drawing of Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, during a protest calling for better protection of migrant workers, outside the district court in Hong Kong February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Former beautician Law Wan-tung, 44, looked stunned as the sentence was passed after being found guilty of 18 of 20 abuse charges. She was also ordered to pay a fine of HK$15,000 ($1,934).

The charges included inflicting grievous bodily harm and criminal intimidation against Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and an another maid, also from Indonesia.

Law looked emotionless as she was led out of court. She had pleaded not guilty to the 20 charges but had admitted one of not buying insurance cover for her maid.

Judge Amanda Woodcock read out her verdict saying “damning evidence” revealed “how little care and kindness the defendant showed” for Erwiana.

The brutality meted out to Erwiana has sparked calls for Hong Kong to revise its policies on migrant workers. Around 30 supporters of Erwiana protested outside the court.

Erwiana had told media she would forgive her former boss, but on Friday she said six years was not enough.

“It seems that while we recognize maltreatment of migrant workers as bad and that slavery exists in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong government seems to tolerate it,” she said outside the court.

“With this sentencing, it is as if the people in government are okay with it.”

Erwiana, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2013, returned to Indonesia in January last year where doctors said burns on her body were caused by boiling water. Photographs of a battered Erwiana posted online sparked outrage and Indonesia’s then president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, described her treatment as torture.

Hong Kong has about 330,000 foreign domestic helpers, most of them from the Philippines and Indonesia and nearly all women, who can earn more in Hong Kong to send back to their families than they can at home.

They earn a small fraction of the minimum wage and are forced to live with their employers, often in tiny apartments. Human rights groups say they often suffer physical and emotional abuse, including sexual assault.

Reporting by Pak Yiu; Editing by Farah Master and Nick Macfie

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