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.
DE, a 24-year-old woman from Malang was made to work more than 18 hours a day, seven days a week:
My employer was also the owner of my placement agency. I worked from 6am to 12:30am or until the employer went to bed. I was not allowed to sleep unless after she went to bed. She didn’t like me resting or sitting around, so whenever I was done with one task, she gave me more work to do. I didn’t have a rest day – instead on Sundays, my employer made me work at her agency cooking and selling Indonesian food. She did not pay me for this extra work.
Any time that my employer was angry with me, she slapped me everywhere. She hit me with a plastic chair on my right shin, which left a bruise, and scratched my face. I can’t count how many times this happened because it was too numerous. After six months, I ran away because I was afraid of enduring more of her physical abuse.
During the conciliation process at the Labour Department, my employer only wanted to give me HK$4,000 [US$515] out of HK$21,000 [US$2,709], which I was due for all the rest days and holidays I didn’t get, plus the flight home. Because I refused to accept this settlement, my case will now go to the Tribunal. This of course means that I have to stay longer in Hong Kong without a job.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International