Over the past couple of weeks my neighbour’s house has started to reek more and more of dog again. She has one in there somewhere…some small, poor sad eyed thing that hasn’t seen another dog or the outside of its detestable owner’s house since it was imprisoned there many years ago. It’s a living ornament…a symbol of its owner’s selfishness and ignorant disregard for the rights of dogs to piss on tree trunks and sniff the air. Hey Hong Kong, your soulless letterbox houses forfeit your rights to keep pets. The environment isn’t suitable. Don’t you get it? Your tiny homes, cramped conditions and ugly tight spaces have turned all of you into nasty, distasteful, spite filled thorns…god knows what’s happening to the animals forced to live with you. I say ‘god knows’…but there’s really no secret. A quick look at the SPCA site or a walk through pretty much any Hong Kong pet shop will show you that ‘Hong Kong’ and ‘animal cruelty’ are as synonymous as ‘abhorrent’ and ‘despicable’. But that’s a topic for another post. Today, I want to focus on cruelty of a different kind…cruelty that Hong Kong all but institutionalizes. But first, back to that smell…
So my stupid neighbour’s house reeks of dog. Her door is so close to mine that if they both opened outward and not in, they would hit each other half way. Every time I come or go, I get a nostril full of filth. ‘Run a mop over the floor, splash some Dettol around, spray some air freshener, light a box of matches…anything you dirty old bag. Just get rid of that stench. It’s been getting steadily worse for 3 weeks.’ She lives in there with her deranged son. He’s a minibus driver. He walks in huge thunderous clomping steps because he lacks fine motor skills and his fingers for some reason are so bulbous he can’t bend them or hold a piece of paper. In summer, he likes to sit at the kitchen table in his underpants while his mother serves him some kind of Chinese slop. He’s about 40yo. Both of them have prodigious booming voices and like to slam the door as hard as they can every time they come home or go out. I know, I know…it could be worse. As far as Hong Kong neighbours go, I got lucky…but there is that issue of the smell…and I’ll get back to that, but first let’s turn our attention to the Hong Kong mother of 2 who was found guilty this week of the systematic abuse and torture of Indonesian women, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih.
Hong Kong court finds Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih ‘tortured’ by former employer
A Hong Kong woman has been convicted of beating and starving her Indonesian maid in a “torture” case that sparked international outrage and put a spotlight on the plight of migrant domestic workers in the Middle East and Asia.
The verdict, read out to a courtroom packed with journalists and activists, was met with cheers by supporters of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a former domestic helper who has become the face of a campaign for improved workers’ rights in the financial hub.
Pictures of the injuries sustained by Ms Sulistyaningsih, who was admitted to hospital in her home country emaciated and in a critical condition, at the hands of mother-of-two Law Wan-tung fuelled anger in Indonesia and shocked Hong Kong.
“She was, for want of a better word, a prisoner on those premises,” Judge Amanda Woodcock said.
“She was completely isolated.
“She did not complain about the abuse because of fear…When Erwiana left Hong Kong, she was a shadow of her former self.”
Law, who was arrested in January last year, was found guilty of 18 of the 20 charges laid against her. She had denied all the charges. Law was convicted of offences including grievous bodily harm with intent, assault, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages. The only two counts she was not found guilty of were related to her treatment of another domestic worker.
During the six-week trial, prosecutors said Law turned household items such as a mop, a ruler and a clothes hanger into “weapons” against her maids. Ms Sulistyaningsih has described in vivid detail how she was “tortured”, starved, beaten and ritually humiliated by Law, with prosecutors saying she was treated as an “unpaid slave”.
She said she lived for months on nothing but bread and rice, sleeping only four hours a day and being so badly beaten by her then-employer that she was knocked unconscious.
Law is due to face sentencing on February 27.
What makes this case even more deplorable is that the Hong Kong government has built the potential for this kind of abuse into the foundation of the whole ‘maid’ system…and what’s more, have taken no action to stamp out maid abuse in the wake of the case. Basically, the stance of the government is that it’s ok to pay foriegn domestic workers in handfuls of magic beans, to lie to them, fleece money from them via bogus recruitment initiatives, confiscate and withold documents, manipulate debts, create an environment where it’s ok to portray them as clumsy and inept, to sexually abuse them, to racially abuse them, to withhold holidays, over-charge them in administrative fees, work them like animals for up to 17 hours a day and give them a 14 day window to get out of town or get a job should they find themselves out of contract.
The system breeds a dangerously nochalant and negative attitude from a city made up of people notoriously at the bottom of the barrel in terms of the concept of ‘other people’ and the idea of fairness and civility. When gross disrespect is built into the system on a government level, you can imagine the kind of contempt and disregard in the minds of those who buy into the services of a cheap slave. And I say ‘slave’ because euphemistic terms like ‘maid’ and ‘helper’, after all, just don’t cut it and are really only favoured by locals and expats alike, who just can’t manage to take care of their own responsibilities and think they need…’help’. ‘Maid’ and ‘helper’ are soft words for hard labour. And employers know it. Local slave drivers are full of superiority and malice while expats glibly support the system, throwing a few extra bucks at their slave at Christmas to make themselves feel good.
So anyway, my neighbour’s a deadshit. And so’s her halfwit son. Guess what happens when the stink of their imprisoned dog gets bad enough to peel paint off the wall? Yeah, a couple of Indonesian ‘helpers’ come to clean up. Their body language says it all. The old bitch intimidates them with her ingrained sense of self importance. She holds all the aces while the maids clean up dog shit and scrub her S-bend. The workers slink in and out of her house with their shoulders hunched and their tail between their legs, as if they are expecting a short clip over the ears at any moment. They speak in hushed tones and don’t look their master in the eye. It’s pitiful. But it’s perfectly ok in Hong Kong. Everybody does it because it’s cheap. It doesn’t matter that a woman was systematically tortured, starved, humiliated and cruelly beaten under this system does it? That’s just an isolated case, isn’t it? Well sure it may be…or it may not be…but that’s not the point. The point is, that Hong Kong encourages an environment where minorities such as foreign domestic workers are treated like dogs…and sees nothing wrong with it.