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.
Putri was trafficked from Indonesia to Hong Kong into domestic slavery. She tells of her experience in a training centre.
It’s difficult to find work in Indonesia.
A broker told me there were plenty of opportunities in Hong Kong and that my time at the training centre would be brief. But I ended up staying there for seven months. We were not allowed to go out the entire time we were there unless we paid a cash deposit of 1,000,000 Indonesian rupiah (US$100) or provided a property certificate as collateral.
The teachers at the training centre were unprofessional. I now know that they could not speak fluent Cantonese. They also failed to teach us how to cook Chinese food properly. The conditions were terrible – the centre was overcrowded and we slept on mattresses on the floor. There were only six bathrooms for 200 people, so three to four of us would have to shower together. The staff abused us all the time, calling us names and telling us we were bad workers. I also had to work as a domestic for a family in Surabaya for four months. I was only paid 150,000 rupiah (US$15) per month, but domestics in Surabaya are usually paid 400,000 rupiah (US$40).
On top of the recruitment fees, I had to pay for other costs.
I was given a contract to sign after five months. It was in English which I didn’t understand. No one explained it to me. I was just told to “sign it”. The whole process took no more than five minutes. I was never given a copy.
Once I started work in Hong Kong, my wages were deducted for the first seven months. I had to pay HK$ 3,000 (US$390) each month. My employer paid this directly to the agency. That left me with only HK$580 (US$75) which isn’t very much to live on. I didn’t get a weekly rest day. Instead, I only had two days free per month. My employer confiscated my passport to stop me running away.
I am back in Indonesia now and don’t want to return to Hong Kong. I want to have children and start my own business so I can create job opportunities here for others.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International