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Erwiana wins HK$809,430 claim against abusive employer

South China Morning Post From Freedom United

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a former domestic worker who was tortured by her Hong Kong employer, finally won her two-year legal bid to claim HK$809,430 (US$103,480) in damages from her employer. District Court Judge Winnie Tsui Wan-wah called her mistreatment “inhumane, degrading, and abhorrent.”

The South China Morning Post reports that Erwiana’s former employer, Law Wan-tung, had argued in court that her injuries were exaggerated or self-inflicted:

In court earlier this month, Law insisted that the Indonesian’s injuries were either self-inflicted or arising from pre-existing conditions, points that she did not make during her criminal trial two years ago, for which she was sentenced to six years in prison.

However, whether Erwiana will receive the compensation depends on the eventual outcome of a High Court case, where her lawyers are trying to bar Law from transferring her share in a HK$7 million flat to her husband.

The judge did not buy her employer’s arguments and pointed to instances where Erwiana was clearly abused. Once, Law shoved a vacuum cleaner tube into Erwiana’s mouth and another time during winter, she stripped her naked and splashed her with cold water.

Tsui, in her judgement, said that “The defendant’s acts were designed to ‘teach a lesson’ to the plaintiff that she, as the defendant’s domestic helper, was inferior and must do as ordered. It was meant to bring about humiliation, distress and loss of human dignity.”

If Law does not appeal, this would be the end of a legal saga for Erwiana that saw her employer charged with 18 assault and labour-related offenses for hurting Erwiana and another domestic worker, Tutik Lestari Ningsih.

Erwiana pursued this civil claim after the conclusion of the criminal trial, seeking damages for her “physical injuries and psychological condition, loss of earnings and future earning capacity, medical expenses, and some aggravated damages.”

“I still feel the hatred against my previous employer [and wonder] why she did the violence to me at the time,” she testified during the civil proceeding. Erwiana says she still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression but is now studying at a university back in Indonesia.

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