2 Filipina Helpers Flee ‘Abusive’ Employer in Hong Kong

Two Filipina domestic workers have fled from the house of their elderly employer in Hong Kong November 9, claiming they were subjected to various forms of abuse.

A concerned citizen fetched Lanie Grace Rosareal, 27, and Rowela Sobiono Suete, 36, after the pair appealed for help, and escorted them to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.

Both Rosareal and Suete worked for an employer surnamed Leung at a flat on the 35th Floor of The Grandiose, a private residential tower in Tseung Kwan O district.

“I think this employer does not deserve to hire a foreign domestic worker permanently. It is cruelty akin to modern-day slavery,” Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre remarked after meeting with the two women in POLO office.

Rosareal claimed that her ordeal with Leung included “head-banging, being bopped on her top with a knife or a TV remote control, being jabbed in the arm with a pair of scissors, or clawed on her wrists and neck,” a report from The SUN said.

The maid said she suffered headaches due to the banging but could not go for a medical check-up, as she worked even on her holidays so she could pay the “fines” imposed on her by the employer.

Rosareal said she had no money when she fled her employer as Leung did not pay her salary for four months to cover fines. A total of HK$7,670 worth of fines was imposed on her in October, documented in a notebook where Leung listed down all the alleged mistakes of the maid for which she was fined.

Under Hong Kong laws, justifiable fines charged aginst a foreign domestic worker’s salary should not exceed HK$300 a month.

“Since June, all my salary had gone to the fines,” Rosareal said.

Suete was hired later and it did not take long for her to discover the employer’s cruel behavior towards Rosareal, reminded the latter about her rights and reported the abuse to her agency Wellcome Employment Centre.

When an agency staff called Leung, the employer also turned on Suete and had since verbally abused her, too. “I’m now afraid because she might also hurt me, so, I decided to run away with Lanie,” Suete said.

Both Rosareal and Suete talked about their being made to work in the two houses, as well as cleaning the outside of windows despite the ban on such domestic task imposed by the Hong Kong government which took effect January 1 this year. They also complained of being given only a few slices of bread to eat and did not avail of food allowance. They also worked in the apartment which was allegedly monitored by CCTV, including their beds.

The day before the two helpers fled their employer, Suete reached out to a friend about her and Rosareal’s plight. Their rescue the next day was coordinated with Labatt Dela Torre.

The Labor Attache had Leung watchlisted while the recruitment agency of the helpers were notified of their situation.

Asked why she bore her suffering for so long without reporting to authorities, Rosareal said she was afraid Leung would make good her threat of charging her with theft after she used an Octopus card lent to her by the employer to buy a HK$28 meal when she got hungry during an errand.

Leung has also reportedly taken away her passport, which is a violation under Hong Kong’s labour laws.