Hong Kong woman found guilty of abusing Indonesian maid

media captionThe BBC's Alice Budisatrijo says pictures of the maid's battered body shocked Hong Kong

A Hong Kong woman has been found guilty of abusing an Indonesian maid in a high-profile case of mistreatment.

Law Wan-tung was accused of causing grievous bodily harm, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages.

The maid, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, drew global attention last year when she returned to Indonesia and needed hospital treatment.

She testified in court in December that she was abused by Law for several months before she was sent home.

The case drew intense scrutiny in Hong Kong, where a significant number of families rely on domestic helpers. The city's residents employ about 300,000 maids from other parts of Asia.

Law was found guilty of 18 out of 20 charges laid against her. The two charges she was not found guilty of related to her treatment of another maid.

She is due to be sentenced later this month.

Ms Erwiana told AFP news agency after the verdict that she was "very happy". She also got down on her knees and said a prayer of gratitude outside the court room.

image copyrightAFP
image captionMs Erwiana had said in court that Law had tortured her
image copyrightReuters
image captionHer case brought the issue of maid abuse into the spotlight

During the trial the court heard that Law beat Ms Erwiana with various objects including a mop and a hanger - at one point knocking her unconscious - and deprived her of proper food.

At one point Law shoved a vacuum cleaner tube into Ms Erwiana's mouth and twisted it, injuring her lips; on another occasion Law punched the maid so hard that her incisor teeth fractured.

Ms Erwiana and her father told the South China Morning Post that when she returned home in January 2014, Ms Erwiana only weighed 25kg, half her usual weight. She had bruises all over her body.

Law's defence lawyers had accused Ms Erwiana of being "opportunistic" and argued she sustained her injuries because of her clumsiness.

Law denied all the abuse charges laid against her, but admitted to a separate charge of not buying insurance for Ms Erwiana.

The BBC's Alice Budisatrijo in Jakarta says the case has drawn attention in Indonesia because Hong Kong, which has laws to protect maids, is seen as relatively safe for Indonesian domestic workers compared to other countries.

image copyrightAFP
image captionMs Erwiana has drawn support from migrant workers and a number of them showed up at the court on Tuesday

Photographs of Ms Erwiana looking emaciated and sickly in an Indonesian hospital last year caused outrage in her home country, while the case also triggered protests by migrant workers in Hong Kong.

Ms Erwiana was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people last year.

Amnesty International in 2013 published a report alleging that maids were being abused and exploited in Hong Kong, and called on the city's government to resolve the issue.

The human rights group said on Tuesday that the guilty verdict for Law was a "wake-up call" for the government to stop exploitation and a "damning indictment".

"The Hong Kong authorities can no longer bury their heads in the sand and dismiss horrific abuses as isolated incidents. Concrete action to end laws and regulations that foster such horrific abuse is long overdue," said the group's Asia Pacific migrant rights researcher Norma Kang Muico.

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