Modern Slavery Day is today 14 March, a day to think about, and act if you can, against “treatment akin to a farm animal”. It happens right here in Hong Kong to some domestic helpers. SAI KUNG BUZZ in its three years of operation has repeatedly publicised issues cited by Christian Action, led by Ho Chung resident Cheung Ang Siew-mei, and the Mission for Migrant Workers, an off-shoot of St John’s Cathedral. In the worst cases here helpers have abusive employers they are forced to endure slave-like conditions. The two-week rule that makes it a criminal offence to stay longer than that after a helper loses her job causes entrapment. Hong Kong law puts no limits on the hours girls can be required to work. Seventeen and more hours a day is common. The requirement that helpers must live with their employers creates intolerable psychological pressure in the worst cases. Bad food, being forced to sleep in a toilet or kitchen are frequent complaints heard by the charities.
The Global Slavery Index 2016 gave Hong Kong ninth worst ranking in Asia for allowing people to be treated as slaves. Its researchers concluded at least 29,500 people here suffered such conditions. Justice Centre Hong Kong,a human rights group, said it had found 17 per cent of domestic helpers were carrying out forced labour. Slavery was defined as “situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception, with treatment akin to a farm animal.” This exploitation is enabled by Hong Kong law and a Government with eyes averted. This from no less an authority than the St John’s Cathedral’s Mission for Migrant Workers. See the SAI KUNG BUZZ reports quoting MFMW here and here. If you know a domestic helper in trouble, direct her to Christian Action or Mission for Migrant workers. They have hostels as well as paralegal, translation and counseling services and will take a girl under their wing until her problems are sorted out.