Susi worked for the same employer now in jail (six years) for torturing another Indonesian domestic worker, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who went to Hong Kong to earn money to finance her college studies and went home burned and battered after eight months of abuse. Susi also went to Hong Kong from Indonesia in 2010 to support her parents, two younger brothers, her husband and her son. Her son was an infant and she was overwhelmed with the need to give the best of things to him. She was willing to suffer to give her son and family something better. But when her family never heard from her for months after she left for Hong Kong, they began complaining to the Indonesian agent. The agent in Hong Kong called the employer and reported to the family that Susi was fine. After a cousin living in Hong Kong threatened to go to the police if he could not see her, an agent went to the home where she worked. Susi said she wanted to leave, she feared for her life. They offered her more salary if she would stay. She wanted out. The agency then shifted her to another employer. Although that agency did not place Erwiana, it did send another young woman into the same abusive situation after Susi left.
“I was not as seriously abused as Erwiana’s case. Erwiana wanted to escape and the agency took her back to the employer. She couldn’t escape because she was hit so hard. I didn’t escape—my family couldn’t find me. So they asked the agency in Indonesia why. They then found the Hong Kong agency. I had a cousin in Hong Kong who called the agency there and said, ‘If I can’t see her, I will call the police.’ The agent called my employer. She said, ‘She is fine; you don’t need to talk to her.’ I asked if I could call my family just once and the madam hit me.
“She wrote down my schedule in a schedule book. I go to bed at 6 a.m. and wake at 10 a.m. I was repeatedly cleaning the house. The employer doesn’t sleep either. She had to take medicine for sleeping. I had breakfast and then I cleaned the whole house. There was a time limit how long I can take. It was all written down. I had to clean each toilet for 35 minutes. Then I do other things. If someone used a toilet, I had to clean it again. I had to clean every bottle in the bathroom, one by one. I thought I had to clean only the toilet after it was used. No, I had to clean everything again. If I cleaned the bathroom in 30 minutes, she would say, ‘No, you not cleaning it well. So you have to do it again.’ I’m so sleepy every day, I think that if I go faster I can sleep more. But then I would only get two hours of sleep.
“If she finds the table with little dirt, she would hit me. Every time, she hit me with her hand. The madam pulled my hair and hit my face. Once I cleaned the husband’s working room and I was so sleepy I fell asleep and the employer hit me with a cleaning brush. She would say workers are like rubbish.
“I was younger and I didn’t look like this then. I’m stronger now. Actually, I was very fat with that employer. Every afternoon she made me eat a whole bowl of rice. One time I vomited. She said, ‘This is very expensive. You vomit, you have to pay for the food.’ I don’t why she made me eat it. I don’t know, but I think I had long working every day, with 20 hours and 4 hours to sleep and maybe she thought that if she gave me a lot to eat I could work longer. And the employer knows I had no one to turn to.”
A storage room for sleeping
“For breakfast, I had two slices of bread. At night the employer would cook and after the family ate I would eat the leftovers. I had my own room but it was a storage room. To sleep I had to move all the things, like toilet paper, make-up, paper bags, outside to make space.
“One month after I had worked there, she asked me to sign a paper saying I had been paid and she slapped me and said to stop arguing when I said I hadn’t been paid.
“My family didn’t accept the first response from the agency that I was fine and kept calling to find me. After 11 months, my cousin went to the agency and said, ‘If I can’t see my cousin I will call the police. If I can see her it’s okay. You bring her to let me see her.’ So the agency went to the employer and talked with me. The agency tried to convince me to stay, ‘You are very good and doing well and the employer will give you more money than the salary.’ I said, ‘No, don’t give me so much money. Let me leave here. I will die here. It’s okay if I don’t get my salary. I want to go. I don’t want more money, I want to leave.’
“My full salary should have been HK$3,580 a month. She only gave me HK$4,000 for the 11 months. At the time, my hand and leg all hurt and had bumps from where she hit me. The agent said if I wanted to find another employer I didn’t need to go back to Indonesia and I could stay two weeks in Hong Kong and a week in Macau and they would find me another job.
The agent tried to calm me, saying, ‘I will give you a very good employer if you don’t tell anyone what happened here.’
I was afraid I’d die there
“I was so scared, afraid that I would die there. Being beaten or cheated is okay, but I didn’t want to be killed because I have to take care of my son. I think it’s okay for me to suffer to give my son and family something better—as long as I survive. I had no idea how to find help. I had no idea my employer would cheat me like that. I don’t know why this happened. My employer said she’s very rich. ‘If I hit you and kill you, no one will know that.’ I don’t know what is wealthy in Hong Kong. She looked like very rich. She didn’t have to work, she stayed at home. She wore a lot of make-up like a rich person. She looked very beautiful. She is Hong Kong Chinese. When I was back in Indonesia and saw a TV programme about Hong Kong, I saw she’s like everyone else.”