HONG KONG - A Hong Kong couple were jailed on Wednesday for torturing, beating and abusing their Indonesian maid, who said they once dressed her in a diaper and tied her to a chair for five days while they went on vacation.
Tai Chi-wai, 42, an electric appliance salesman, was jailed for three years and three months and his wife, Catherine Au Yuk-shan, 41, a public hospital assistant, got five-and-a-half years after being found guilty of a total of eight charges, including assault and wounding with intent.
The couple repeatedly assaulted and tortured Kartika Puspitasari, 30, over a two-year period until she escaped last October, beating her with a bicycle chain and scalding her on the face and arms with a hot iron, the District Court had heard.
Kartika also said that she was left in a diaper and tied to a chair without food or water for five days while her employers went on vacation with their children to Thailand, although the judge said he believed some of this testimony had been exaggerated.
The case had done harm to Hong Kong's reputation as a safe place to work and the court's decision was to "send a clear message that every worker is protected by the laws", said Deputy District Judge So Wai-tak.
The Mission for Migrant Workers said last month that a survey of more than 3,000 women conducted in Hong Kong last year found that 58 per cent had faced verbal abuse, 18 per cent physical abuse and six per cent sexual abuse.
"We call on to the Hong Kong authorities and policymakers to make the needed and urgent reforms that will mitigate the possibility of another Kartika in our midst," the Coalition of Service Providers for Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong said in a statement.
Hong Kong has roughly 300,000 domestic helpers, largely from the Philippines and Indonesia, but also from Nepal, India and Pakistan. They are excluded from a minimum wage and other basic rights and services.
A union representing domestic helpers held a protest in March, calling for an end to a law that requires maids to live with their employers, saying the rule exposes them to abuse.
Also in March, Hong Kong's highest court ruled against granting residency to two Filipino maids, dashing the hopes of several hundred thousand other domestic helpers from ever gaining residency in the city.