When Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih departed from Hong Kong last Friday, she left a nightmare behind her. Eight months of alleged beatings by her employer had disfigured the 23-year-old so badly she was barely recognizable. A gaunt, pockmarked face with chipped teeth had replaced her once smooth, girlish features. Her feet, scalded with hot water, were black in color and had open sores.
Her case is another damning instance of the abuses faced by foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Foreign maids have been a ubiquitous feature of Hong Kong life since the 1970s, when the city’s economy began to boom. Local women entered the labor force on a large scale and hired domestic workers from the Philippines, and subsequently Indonesia and Thailand, to keep households running.
After decades of toiling away in the anonymous confines of Hong Kong’s high-rise homes, domestic helpers, now numbering around 300,000, are making…
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