Torture case spotlights maid abuse issue in Hong Kong

Updated 17 January 2014
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Torture case spotlights maid abuse issue in Hong Kong

HONG KONG: Investigators from Hong Kong will travel to Indonesia to speak with a woman who left the Chinese city after she was allegedly tortured by her employer, authorities said Friday, adding they will pursue the case “relentlessly.”
Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a 22-year-old former domestic helper, was reportedly left unable to walk after eight months of alleged abuse at the hands of the employer. She was admitted to an Indonesian hospital in critical condition after returning home last week.
Domestic workers took to the streets of Hong Kong in support of Erwiana Thursday, and demanded better protection for the city’s hundreds of thousands of foreign helpers.
During the protest, a second maid known only as “Bunga” also came forward to allege abuse at the hands of the same employer — reported to be a woman in her forties who lives with two teenage sons and a husband who is often away — four years ago.
Authorities promised action and have said police officers will be sent to Indonesia to speak with Erwiana.
“Police will be liaising with Interpol with a view to sending officers to Indonesia to take a statement from the helper,” Labor and Welfare minister Matthew Cheung told a press conference on Friday.
“We do not tolerate any abuse or exploitation of domestic helpers in Hong Kong,” Cheung said, adding that the government will “pursue the case relentlessly.”
Cheung also said the government will step up enforcement action over regulation and inspection of domestic helper employment agencies.
The agency that employed Erwiana said they were unaware of her injuries until they were notified by their corresponding agency in Indonesia.
Erwiana remains in hospital in Sragen, on the main Indonesian island of Java.
Her condition is improving and medics hope her injuries will be healed in two weeks, a spokeswoman for the Indonesian minister of manpower and transmigration has said.
The employers accused of the abuse have yet to comment publicly on the case.
The allegations have renewed concerns about the treatment of domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city, home to nearly 300,000 maids mainly from Southeast Asian countries — predominantly Indonesia and the Philippines.
A Hong Kong couple were jailed in September for attacks on their Indonesian domestic helper, which included burning her with an iron and beatings with a bike chain.
Amnesty International in November condemned the “slavery-like” conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian women who work in the Asian financial hub as domestic staff, and accused authorities of “inexcusable” inaction.
It found that Indonesians were exploited by recruitment and placement agencies who seize their documents and charge them excessive fees, with false promises of high salaries and good working conditions.
Domestic helpers in Hong Kong are paid about HK$4,000 ($515) a month.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dives in at NATO on first trip as top US diplomat

Updated 48 min 42 sec ago
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dives in at NATO on first trip as top US diplomat

  • A senior US official says Pompeo’s aim is to ensure that NATO maintains a unified position of “no business as usual” with Russia
  • From Brussels, Pompeo will travel on to the Middle East, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan

BRUSSELS: Newly minted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit the ground running on Friday at NATO headquarters on his first trip abroad as America’s top diplomat.
Just hours after being sworn in, Pompeo flew to Brussels where the alliance’s foreign ministers are meeting to prepare a leaders’ summit in July.
“I did come straight away, I was sworn in yesterday and I hopped on a plane,” Pompeo told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as he arrived. “There’s good reason for that. The work that’s being done here today is invaluable and our objectives are important and this mission means a lot to the United States of America. The president very much wanted me to get here and I’m glad we were able to make it, and I look forward to a productive visit here today.”
Stoltenberg said Pompeo’s presence at the meeting so soon after taking the reins of the State Department was “a great expression of the importance of the alliance and the importance we attach to the alliance.”
“I very much look forward to talking with you, on the need to adapt NATO to a more demanding security environment,” he added.
A senior US official says Pompeo’s aim is to ensure that NATO maintains a unified position of “no business as usual” with Russia and to prod members, particularly Germany, to meet their commitments to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. That commitment was made in 2014 and thus far only six of the 28 countries who made the pledge meet the goal. Nine have produced realistic plans for reaching it by 2024, but the rest, including Germany, have not.
That spending level, frequently incorrectly referred to by Trump as a contribution to NATO itself, is particularly important given the allies’ need to combat increased Russian aggression, said the official, who was not authorized to preview Pompeo’s meetings publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said the US delegation would make the point that NATO is more relevant today that at any point since the end of the Cold War. Russian efforts to destabilize Western democracies as well as encroach on neighbors like Ukraine will be a major theme of the meeting, the official said. The ministers will hold sessions on Russia, Afghanistan and NATO’s “open door policy” for accepting new members.
In addition, Pompeo will have separate talks with the foreign ministers of Italy and Turkey. Relations with the latter are notably strained. The senior official said one of Pompeo’s main goals with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is to refocus on coordination in northern Syria, where Turkey has been attacking Kurdish rebels supported by the US That coordination was started by Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who was fired by Trump last month, and had languished in the absence of a new secretary of state.
Pompeo will also renew calls for the release of a jailed American pastor accused by Turkey of espionage, and encourage Turkey not to pursue the purchase of an advanced air defense system from Russia.
From Brussels, Pompeo will travel on to the Middle East, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, where the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the conflict in Syria will be significant agenda items, officials said.