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.
NE, a 29-year-old woman from Ponorogo (2008-2010), was promised a salary of HK$4,000 (US$515) by her broker, but found out at the training centre in Jakarta that her actual salary would be much lower.
The recruitment agency owner said my monthly salary in Hong Kong would be HK$3,480 [US$450]. I was surprised and wanted to return home but I couldn’t because when I had arrived at the training centre, the staff made me sign a document that said I was responsible for re-paying the recruitment fees or else I had to pay a penalty of IDR 27,000,000 [US$2,770]. I needed the job to help out my parents, so I had no choice but to stay.
The husband verbally abused me calling me crazy and stupid. He also slapped and punched me in the ear, arm and back, which left bruises. This happened many times because he was unemployed and so angry all the time, which he took out on me. I didn’t say anything to his wife because he threatened that if I told her, he would beat me up again.
When everybody was asleep, the grandfather would come to the living room where I was sleeping and grope me everywhere. He told me that he wanted to have sex with me. All I could do was keep telling him no, get angry and try to stop him. This happened many times at night. I didn’t tell my employers – the couple – because I was afraid that they wouldn’t believe me.
In total, I only worked nine months in Hong Kong [five months in the previous employment]. I had to quit my second job because of the physical and sexual abuse. Because of the grandfather, I was forced to return to Indonesia without having earned any money.
I had to spend one month in Macau and when my Macau visa ran out, one week in China. In Macau, I stayed at a studio apartment with about 60 other Indonesian domestic workers – we were all from the same placement agency and all waiting for our Hong Kong work visa to be processed.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International