HONG KONG – A Hong Kong couple have been jailed for a shocking string of attacks on their Indonesian domestic helper, including burning her with an iron and beating her with a bike chain.
Tai Chi-wai, 42, and his wife, Catherine Au, subjected their former maid, Kartika Puspitasari, to a two-year campaign of violence and humiliation, labeled “cruel” and “inhumane” by the trial judge Wednesday. The 30-year-old maid was also assaulted with clothes hangers and a paper cutter.
Protesters outside court held a placard dubbing the couple “Mr. and Mrs. Evil” and called on the city to “end the social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong is home to nearly 300,000 maids from mainly southeast Asian countries, predominantly Indonesia and the Philippines, with growing criticism from rights groups over their treatment.
Judge So Wai-tak, who described the attacks on Puspitasari as “repeated and continual,” sentenced Tai, a salesman by profession, to three years and three months in prison for one count each of assault causing actual bodily harm and wounding. Au, a hospital assistant, was given 5½ years for two charges of assault causing actual bodily harm and four counts of wounding, three of them with intent.
In a courtroom packed with human rights activists and representatives from the Indonesian consulate, the judge slammed the couple for “breaching integrity” and committing a “serious offense.”
However, he found them not guilty of a charge of false imprisonment over the allegation that they left the maid without food or water after tying her to a chair and forcing her to wear a diaper while they went on five-day vacation.
“The sentence is too light. The couple did this together,” said Sring Atin, vice chairperson of Indonesian Migrant Workers Union. “I hope this is the last time it happens. But the guarantee comes from the government, which has to reform its policies to better protect us.”
During her two-year employment, Puspitasari said she received no salary, was banned from talking to anyone and could not leave the couples’ residence.
The defense had accused her of lying, citing a history of disputes over the her wages. The standard salary for domestic workers is just under 4,000 Hong Kong dollars ($515) a month, for a six-day week.