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.Wulan was trafficked from Indonesia to Hong Kong for domestic work. Upon arriving at the agency Wulan’s personal documents were taken and she was told she must work to pay off her recruitment fees.
A broker told me an employer in Hong Kong needed domestic workers urgently. He said that I would be paid the full salary, which at that time was HK$3,580 (US$465). In reality I was paid nothing. The broker asked for my high school diploma, family certificate and Indonesian ID card. He gave them to the staff at the training centre who kept them. The staff explained the documents were a guarantee that I would go to Hong Kong and pay off my recruitment fees. To this day, I have not got them back.
I stayed in Hong Kong for only three months. In that time, I was never given a day off. I wasn’t paid either. My employer told me I couldn’t speak to anyone, not even my Indonesian friends. I had to sleep in the room with her two children.
I was not allowed to practise my religion.
I always ate after the family. They gave me whatever was left over from their dinner. Sometimes that wasn’t enough. They ate a lot of pork, which obviously as a Muslim, I couldn’t eat.
One night, at midnight, my employer told me to wash her daughter’s socks right away. I was exhausted but I did it. But my employer said they weren’t clean enough and dumped the dirty cold water on my head. She said I was stupid and lazy. She abused me verbally like this every day.
[Later] someone from the agency... told me my employer had terminated my contract. My employer refused to give me my salary and compensation for terminating my contract! The agency did not help me find a new job and just told me to go back to Indonesia.
I am happy to be back in Indonesia where I have peace of mind. Before Hong Kong, I worked in Singapore where I learned English so I now teach primary school students at my home. I also run a small convenience shop from our home.
I hope that other migrant domestic workers, especially those going to Hong Kong, can get what they are entitled to, like a place of privacy to sleep, proper salary and rest day. I know there are many Indonesians in Hong Kong who don’t get these things.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International