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SK

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.  SK, a 42-year-old woman trafficked from Malang, Indonesia to Hong Kong (2012- ), did not receive any of the money promised to her by her broker.

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DeWi

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.  DeWi travelled to Hong Kong from Indonesia when an agency secured her domestic work in the country. Upon arrival her passport was taken and she was at the whim of the agency for finding work.

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Joyce

Joyce is an African American woman who was born in Ocala, Florida. She subsisted on migrant work from the age of nine, and from 1985 was enslaved by the Bonds family, who operated a ring of labor camps from Florida to the Carolinas. After seven years in bondage she escaped with her husband Huey. Sometimes the experiences of 21st-century slaves encompass not only the narrator’s turn from slavery to freedom, but also a reversal for their enslavers. In 1993, members of the Bonds family were charged with conspiracy to hold workers in a state of peonage, distribution of crack cocaine, and two violations of the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The Bonds were released from prison in 2000, and Joyce recently received word of their fate: while she had experienced stasis and entrapment (“there’s nowhere to run”), the Bonds now spend their days trapped by the side of a highway, picking up cans for a living. In her narrative, Joyce further inverts slavery’s power dynamic by using the vague and threatening third-person pronoun “they” to counter her own dehumanization (“treated like a dog”).