There are an estimated 10,000 people living in modern slavery in Hong Kong (GSI 2018). Approximately 370,000 foreign domestic workers, primarily from Indonesia and the Philippines, work in Hong Kong; some become victims of forced labour in the private homes in which they are employed. An NGO report released in 2016 estimated as many as one in six foreign domestic workers is a victim of labour exploitation. Employment agencies often charge job placement fees in excess of legal limits, and sometimes withhold identity documents, which may lead to situations of debt bondage of workers in Hong Kong. The accumulated debts sometimes amount to a significant portion of the worker’s first year salary. Some employers or employment agencies illegally withhold passports, employment contracts, or other possessions until the debt is paid. Some workers are required to work up to 17 hours per day, experience verbal, sexual or physical abuse in the home, and/or are not granted a legally required weekly day off.
UR, a 40-year-old woman trafficked from Jombang to Hong Kong (2010- ), noticed that the signature on her contract had been falsified:
I didn’t receive any salary during the five-month deduction period – it all went to the placement agency. I had nothing left over so I couldn’t do anything or send any money home.
The placement agency in Hong Kong told me that I had to continue working or else pay them HK$ 21,000 [US$2,709]. There are no jobs in Indonesia, especially for people like me with very little formal education, and I have 12 brothers and sisters to support back home.
I didn’t get or sign a contract in Indonesia. I only came into possession of it after almost two years in Hong Kong when I quit my job and the Indonesian Consulate retrieved it from my placement agency. But the signature on that contract was not mine, it was forged.
I want compensation due me for the 23 months I worked – 100 rest days, 22 statutory holidays, annual leave days, outstanding salary due to underpayment, flight ticket to Indonesia, travel allowance home, which total HK$56,987.14 [US$7,300]. I have to stay until my case is heard at the Labour Department so I needed an extension on my visa. A 14-day visa costs HK$160 [US$20] – it’s expensive and I had to pay it myself. If my case gets extended or delayed, then I will have to spend more money on visa fees.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International