Jenny* was 22 years old when she journeyed to Hong Kong from India after an old family friend, Avie, found her a job as a beautician. She was, however, deceived about a number of things, including the nature of the job. Jenny was told that she would have to pay Avie IR 35,000, around HKD 4,300. Avie then proceeded to forge Jenny’s signature onto a contract that Jenny never read, and applied for a Foreign Domestic Helper visa for her.
Initially Jenny was confused upon receiving her visa, but, she was reassured that this was common practice because Migrant Domestic Worker visas are easier to apply for than Beautician Working visas in Hong Kong. Jenny trusted Avie and did not question the issue any further.
On arrival, Jenny was told that her employer’s beauty salon had closed down and she was made to work as an MDW for her employer instead, only occasionally providing salon services to her. Jenny’s passport and travel documents were confiscated by her employer, and she was only paid the meagre sum of HKD 2,500 per month. When Jenny asked about low salary her employer told her that she would get a pay raise the next year and that this was just how things worked in Hong Kong.
Jenny was made to work long hours everyday from 5am to 11pm and she was not allowed any days off or statutory holidays. The only time off she was given to herself was on Sunday between 12.30 and 5 pm. She was also required to sleep in the kitchen, even though she was promised a private room. Jenny recalled that she often felt threatened by her employers, and felt scared by her employers’ verbal abuse. She recounted how they had broken her phone once, upon discovering that she was recording their actions.
One day, she took a nap because of sickness after finishing her work. Her employer mixed a lot of bleach and cold water into a basin, then asked Jenny to clean the floor after pouring water on the floor. Refused by Jenny, employer poured the basin filled with bleach onto Jenny. This caused Jenny feel a burning sensation on left arm and leg.
“I felt my skin like burning.”
Jenny’s contract was terminated after 10 months. She was made to sign a blank sheet of paper by her employers, who told her that it was a notice to the Immigration Department about her termination. She later found out that they had put other contents on the paper, showing that she willingly left her employment and that she had already received all her money.
After leaving her job, Jenny stayed at a friend’s whilst seeking help from various organisations such as STOP to file complaints and legal claims against her employers. She is still waiting for her case to be processed by the Labour Department and wishes to return home after this ordeal.
*All names and identifying information have been changed to to protect the identity of the survivors.
Indicators of trafficking for labour exploitation:
- Deceptive recruitment – Jenny was deceived about the nature of the job, living conditions, and her legal documentation.
- Exploitation – excessive working hours, bad living conditions, low/no salary.
- Surverillance and control by employer – CCTVs were installed at employer’s residence to monitor Jenny’s behavior
- Coercion at destination – her personal documents were confiscated and she was forced to do MDW tasks.
- Abuse of vulnerability – dependency on exploiters due to economic reasons and family situation.
Are you or someone you know being trafficked?
Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.
To reach out or get help for suspected cases of human trafficking in Hong Kong, please contact us at connect@100storiesHK.org.
Story provided by Stop Trafficking of People (STOP).