HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong police Monday arrested a woman who allegedly severely injured two Indonesian domestic helper, a day after thousands staged a march in protest at her treatment.
The unnamed woman, a 44-year-old housewife alleged to have beaten domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and another maid, was arrested at the city's Chek Lap Kok airport as she attempted to board a flight to Thailand. Some media outlets identified her last name as Law.
"At about 4 o'clock today, Hong Kong police arrested a housewife of age 44. She is believed to be (involved) in connection with Erwiana's case and another abuse on an Indonesian domestic helper in Hong Kong," police officer Chan Wai-man
told reporters some five hours after police detained the woman. "She was trying to leave Hong Kong for Thailand," he added.
Ms Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 22, was reportedly abused over a period of eight months while employed by the woman. Media reports said she was unable to walk due to her injuries when she flew home from the southern Chinese city this month.
Police investigators on Monday travelled to Indonesia to interview Ms Erwiana, who is being treated at a hospital in Sragen on Java island.
Claims that she had been tortured by her employer sparked an outcry by domestic helpers and others and renewed concern about the treatment of maids in Hong Kong.
Several thousand domestic helpers and rights activists staged a protest on Sunday, calling for a speedy investigation of the case and better protection for maids.
Local groups representing domestic helpers have claimed that two other helpers were also abused by the same employer.
One of them complained to police Sunday about her treatment.
Hong Kong employs nearly 300,000 domestic helpers, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines.
In an earlier case a Hong Kong couple were jailed in September for attacks on their Indonesian domestic helper which included burning her with an iron and beatings with a bicycle chain.
Amnesty International in November condemned the "slavery-like" conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong and accused authorities of "inexcusable" inaction.
It said Indonesians were exploited by recruitment and placement agencies who seize their documents and charge them excessive fees, with false promises of high salaries and good working conditions.
The government stipulates a minimum wage and other conditions for foreign domestic helpers, but unscrupulous employers and agencies sometimes ignore this.