During a protest outside the offices of Erwiana’s former employment agency on Thursday, the 28-year-old, who prefers to only go by her nickname “Bunga,” told the South China Morning Post that she suffered 10 months of beatings by the same woman.
“One time the employer got so angry she dragged me onto the balcony and threatened to throw me off of it. She made me beg for my life,” she said.
The employer, a woman in her 40s with two teenage children and a husband who is mostly absent, never allowed Bunga to leave the apartment. She allegedly threatened to kill both Bunga and Erwiana if they talked about the beatings. When Bunga’s Hong Kong employment agency became aware of her ordeal they arranged for another employer, but persuaded her not to report the case to the police.
“I’m speaking out now because I feel so sad I didn’t do anything to try to prevent the employer from hurting Erwiana,” she said.
According to information gathered by the Justice for Erwiana campaign committee, which arranged the Thursday protest and is composed of various migrant groups and advocates, Erwiana tried to run away from her employer the week after her first month of employment. She complained to the staff at her employment agency that she was not paid, only given bread and one serving of rice per day, one bottle of boiled water, four hours of sleep and no days off.
“But instead of helping her, the agency staff took her back to the employer, saying that she cannot leave yet without completing her payment to the agency,” said the committee’s spokeswoman Sringatin in a statement.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, Eni Lestari, chairwoman of International Migrants Alliance, said Erwiana’s beatings had begun when undernourishment drove her to steal cookies.
“She was tortured five times a day. When she developed a skin allergy her employer would beat those areas on purpose. When the wounds got infected her employer wrapped them tightly with cloth to hide the stink, making the infections worse.”
Hong Kong police have launched an investigation into Erwiana’s case, and made visits to the employer’s home. They have also asked Bunga to file a report on her alleged abuse from 2010.
The Justice for Erwiana campaign has planned for another demonstration outside the central-government offices on Sunday.