SRAGEN, Indonesia: Hong Kong police on Tuesday interviewed an Indonesian maid allegedly tortured by her employer, who is now under arrest in the Chinese city, as Indonesia’s president phoned the domestic worker to express his sorrow at the “tragedy.”
It came a day after police in Hong Kong detained the 44-year-old woman accused of abusing Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, as she attempted to board a flight to Thailand at the city’s airport.
Sulistyaningsih, 23, was reportedly abused over a period of eight months while employed by the woman. Media reports said she was unable to walk due to her injuries when she flew home from Hong Kong this month.
The case has renewed concern about the treatment of maids in Hong Kong and follows a spate of such abuse cases and strong criticism from rights groups.
Hong Kong police arrived late Monday in Sragen, on Indonesia’s main island of Java, where the maid is in hospital. On Tuesday they arrived at the hospital to take a formal statement from her.
As they arrived the maid’s father Rohmat Saputro, 50, told reporters: “I am sure that my daughter will find justice.”
Following interviews in the morning, Hong Kong senior police officer Li Ka-yan said the maid was taking a rest and police would continue talking to her later in the day.
“She talked about why she came to Hong Kong to work, how the employer tortured her, and what she was told to do on a daily basis,” she said.
“She was cooperative and reiterated she will come to Hong Kong if police think it is necessary but it very much depends on her recovery.”
Officials from Hong Kong’s labor department would also interview her in the afternoon, she added.
Agus Cahyono Rasyid, an Indonesian official from the Indonesian consulate in Hong Kong, added that police were taking the interview process slowly.
“If we go straight to the core of the issue, Hong Kong police fear she could be traumatized so we only asked her about things that were not sensitive,” he said.
On Tuesday President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono broke off from a Cabinet meeting to call Sulistyaningsih and her father.
“Believe me, the law will be enforced, justice will be served, what’s important is we will help with [your]treatment,” he told the maid, in comments heard by reporters at the meeting.
He told her father he had raised the case with Hong Kong’s leaders.
“I am sad and concerned that your daughter has suffered this tragedy. I am also angry at those who have committed this evil,” he told Saputro.
“What’s important is that you know we are not happy, the government is not happy and I am also angry.”
Hong Kong police said Monday that the arrest of the woman who allegedly mistreated Sulistyaningsih was also based partly on evidence collected from a second maid who came forward at the weekend claiming to have been abused.
The case has provoked anger among the large community of foreign maids in Hong Kong, with several thousand rallying on Sunday to show their support for Sulistyaningsih.
Hong Kong employs nearly 300,000 domestic helpers, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines.
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.
The government stipulates a minimum wage and other conditions for foreign maids, but unscrupulous employers and agencies sometimes ignore this.