HONG KONG — Hong Kong police arrested a woman on Monday accused of beating her Indonesian maid in a case that has triggered outrage over its alleged brutality.
The 44-year-old woman, surnamed Law, was detained at the city’s airport as she was trying to catch a flight to Thailand, Senior Inspector Chan Wai-man said.
The case drew attention after photos circulated last week among Indonesians in Hong Kong of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih’s injuries, showing her face, hands and legs covered with scabs and lacerations, and blackened skin around her feet.
Chan said police arrested the woman in connection with Sulistyaningsih’s case as well as that of another maid who filed a complaint Sunday alleging she was also beaten by the same person.
An Indonesian migrant workers’ union in Hong Kong said the maid, who arrived in May last year, was tortured by her employers on a daily basis and forced to wear a diaper.
The 23-year-old maid was allowed to return to Indonesia earlier this month after her injuries prevented her from working, and was given the equivalent of only about $9 by her employer, according to the union.
Fadli Iman, one of the doctors treating Sulistyaningsih in Indonesia, told the AP her condition is improving but she’s still weak and often complains of dizziness.
“The wound on her head is the most serious,” Iman said from Amal Sehat hospital in the Central Java town of Sragen.
He said a CT scan indicated she suffered frequent blows to the head with a hard object, resulting in a concussion.
“Hopefully, she will be able to go home in another week,” he said.
He said a team of five specialists treating Sulistyaningsih is awaiting the arrival of four Hong Kong police officers who are visiting Indonesia to find out more about her injuries.
Sulistyaningsih’s father, Rohmad Saputra, said his daughter was healthy when she left for Hong Kong last year but came back with wounds to her head and a broken nose and teeth.
She can’t open her swollen eyes because she was punched almost every day and is unable to walk, he said.
“I was shocked and very sad,” Saputra said. “She looked like a skeleton with bad injuries when she came home.”
He demanded that those who “tortured my daughter must be punished.”
Monday’s arrest came a day after thousands of maids and their supporters protested in Hong Kong over the case, which is the latest to stoke fury over poor treatment of the city’s 312,000 foreign domestic helpers, most of them young women. Indonesians account for about half of Hong Kong’s foreign maids and Filipinos make up most of the rest.
In a similar case last year, a couple was imprisoned for torturing their Indonesian maid with a hot iron, a paper cutter and a bicycle chain.
Amnesty International said in a report in November that foreign maids working in Hong Kong are vulnerable to widespread abuse and exploitation, including restrictions on freedom of movement, physical and sexual violence, inadequate food and long working hours.
Associated Press writer Niniek Karminiek in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.