Hong Kong woman jailed for six years for beating, starving and imprisoning maid

A Hong Kong woman has been jailed for six years for beating, starving and imprisoning her Indonesian maid.

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In handing down the sentence, Judge Amanda Woodcock said Law Wan-tung “showed no compassion” to Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and other domestic staff and saw them as “people that are beneath her”.

“(Sulistyaningsih) was given little rest, sleep and nutrition, which left her a shadow of her former self,” Judge Woodcock said.

The judge called for an investigation by Hong Kong and Indonesian authorities into the workers’ conditions.

Ms Sulistyaningsih, 24, told a Hong Kong court in December how she lived on nothing but meagre rations of bread and rice, slept only four hours a day and was beaten so badly by her employer that she was knocked unconscious.

During the six-week trial, prosecutors said mother-of-two Law, 44, turned household items such as a mop, a ruler and a clothes hanger into “weapons” against her maids.

Law was convicted on 18 of 20 charges laid against her, including grievous bodily harm, assault, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages.

“It is regrettable that this conduct is not rare and sadly is often dealt with in the criminal courts,” Judge Woodcock said.

Under Hong Kong law, domestic helpers must live in their employer’s home.

Campaigners want reform on this point and Judge Woodcock said situations like this could be prevented if the law did not exist.

Judge Woodcock also highlighted the “significant fees” charged to domestic helpers by agencies in their home countries, which are deducted from their Hong Kong salaries.

“There must be an element of exploitation here. The domestic helper becomes trapped when they are unhappy, but cannot leave or change employers because the debt needs to be paid off,” she said.

Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with her own face and the word “justice” Ms Sulistyaningsih remained expressionless as the sentence was read out.

She had said she hoped Law would receive the maximum term, which is seven years.

Earlier, Law’s defence lawyer Graham Harris had said she was “not a monster” and referred to her charity work and role as a mother.

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