The Guest Room

A Hong Kong blog that does a lot more than blog

pollipops: Erwiana takes one for the team



If you’ve been awake over the past week in Hong Kong, I’m sure you heard of Erwiana, an Indonesian maid who’s story has dominated the news, in a sad story of how she was repeatedly beaten by her employers for more than half a year.

While this story sickens me, there are some obvious positives to come from it. The Hong Kong community is making a real push to change the laws and enforce the so-called rules that have been in place to protect Hong Kong’s helpers.

Hong Kong has just over 300,000 domestic helpers with the majority coming from the Philippines and Indonesia. This massive demongraphic plays an essential part in so many Hong Kong people’s lives, yet they are treated on the cusp of slavery.

Erwiana’s case is one of many, but this one crossed the tipping point between abuse and potential manslaughter, so it has fortunately gotten the attention of international media and has people in a stir.

Speaking with my domestic helper, she said that she is told stories of abuse almost daily. For example a helper in our building isn’t allowed to have a phone. I’m not talking about using a phone during work hours, I mean she can’t have a phone! So calling her daughter back in the Philippines isn’t nearly frequent or easy enough.

She’s not allowed out of her cage, I mean room, past 9 in the evening. She’s on call 24/7 and feels so guilty if she ever takes a break.

Ridiculously, helpers in Hong Kong must live with their employers, which puts them at their employer’s mercy, and so often this ’employment’ is more like ownership.

I really hope and expect that this terrible occurrence will continue to cause an uproar in the Hong Kong community and that we will see significant improvements.

Online movements by the Hong Wrong Blog (@hongwrongblog) and HK Helpers Campaign (@hkhelpers) are making a real effort to stand up against these injustices. I hope you’ll follow them on twitter and continue to help raise awareness.

With our full time domestic helper, our family is always going the extra step to ensure her happiness, whether it be through extra days off or surprise gifts. The last thing we want is for someone in our home not to be happy.

What’s your take? What do you do that is beyond what is expected for your helper? Something that really shows how much you appreciate her work?

Thanks for stopping by the Guest Room! And liking and sharing on Facebook as always, is very appreciated.

Mr. J

5 comments on “pollipops: Erwiana takes one for the team

  1. hong kong fong
    January 22, 2014

    We only have a part-time helper who comes to clean twice a week. I treat her respectfully, ask about her family, offer flexibility with schedule, and we tipped her nicely for the holidays.

    The abuse issues ongoing here in HK are so disheartening and frustrating – very difficult to understand the need for some to have a ‘power play’ or otherwise over individuals who are key to making our own lives that much better/easier. I am already indebted to our helper for cleaning – I would be overjoyed if someone was helping me day in/day out with my child!!

  2. Mr.j
    January 22, 2014

    Hi HK Fong!
    Very well said! I can’t understand the logic of treating someone so poorly who has access to all of your belonging and children!
    Really hope this unfortunate event leads to a real change.

  3. Yuki
    January 25, 2014

    I think the government in Indonesia n Philippine should help those worker too. Don’t give too authority to medium company. If employers treat badly to the helpers, they should help them. Don’tlIook at money. I don’t know why the helper dun tell the truth at the begining and is going to hide the bad treat. They should know their basic human rights.

  4. Mr.j
    January 25, 2014

    Hi Yuki
    Just because people should have human rights, doesn’t mean that everyone has them.
    Some domestic helpers are put into very compromising positions where they live in fear. Afraid of losing their jobs and visas to support themselves and their families, and in Erwianna’s case, fear of dying.
    Hope to see some change!
    Thanks for reading!!

  5. theguestroom
    February 27, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Guest Room and commented:

    Today, Erwianna’s abusive former employer was sentenced to 6 years in prison!

    I wrote this blog about her almost a year ago!

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2014 by in Pollipops and tagged , , , , .

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