HONG KONG: Time magazine has named an Indonesian maid allegedly tortured by her Hong Kong employer as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, putting the spotlight on the city’s treatment of its migrant workers.
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 23, reportedly suffered months of abuse in a case which has renewed concerns over the treatment of domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city and sparked angry protests.
Time magazine hailed Sulistyaningsih’s bravery in speaking out against her employer, and pushing for laws that better protect maids in Hong Kong.
“It is brave women like her who speak up for the voiceless who will create lasting change,” Cambodian activist Somaly Mam said of Sulistyaningsih in the list published on Thursday.
“Erwiana is advocating for better laws to protect others who may share her fate, placing a spotlight on the plight of a vulnerable and often invisible population,” Mam said.
Time’s recognition of Sulis–tyaningsih brings international attention to the treatment of migrant domestic workers in the city, Hong Kong-based Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body spokesman Eman Villanueva, a Filipino, told Agence France-Presse on Friday.
“The inclusion itself only proves that the issue of migrant domestic workers, the slavery, the exploitation and abuse is something that the international community should pay attention to,” Villanueva said.
He described the situation as “ripe for abuse” in the city, where maids are required to live with their employers.
Villanueva also said Erwiana’s actions and her inclusion on the list will help empower more victims to speak out.
“This would encourage and would strengthen the resolve of many other victims to come out in the open and fight for their rights and seek justice,” he said.
Law Wan-tung, a 44-year-old Hong Kong mother-of-two has been charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Sulistyaningsih.
Prosecutors have alleged that Law turned household items such as a mop, a ruler and a clothes hanger into “weapons” against Sulistyaningsih.
She was also charged with common assault and four counts of criminal intimidation — charges related either to Sulistyaningsih or to her two previous Indonesian domestic helpers.
The trial has been adjourned to April 29, with officials awaiting the maid’s medical records from Indonesia.
Sulistyaningsih was admitted to hospital in Sragen, on Indonesia’s main island of Java, in critical condition after returning from Hong Kong in January.
The Asian financial hub is home to nearly 300,000 maids, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines, and criticism from rights groups over their treatment is growing.
Amnesty International in November condemned the “slavery-like” conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong and accused authorities of “inexcusable” inaction.
Time magazine’s list also included Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, who survived a Taliban attack in 2012 when she was shot in the head by the militants for campaigning for girls’ education.