TIME Hong Kong

Abusive Employer Given Six Years in High-Profile Domestic Worker Case

Lo Wan-Tung Returns Home Amid Accusations Of The Abuse And Torture Of Two Indonesian Maids
Lam Yik Fei—Getty Images Police escort Law Wan-tung to her home for further investigation on Jan. 21, 2014, in Hong Kong

Judge Amanda Woodcock said “the defendant had no compassion"

A Hong Kong mother of two who criminally abused her Indonesian domestic helper, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, was sentenced to six years in prison on Friday, concluding a landmark case that drew international attention to the plight of Hong Kong’s foreign domestic workers.

Judge Amanda Woodcock said, “The defendant had no compassion for the people she considered beneath her. It is regrettable that such conduct, attitude and physical abuse is not rare.”

Law Wan-tung, 44, was also fined just under $2,000.

Earlier in February, Law was found guilty of 18 counts of abuse. Sentencing was extended because her lawyer filed for a psychological review, but no evidence of psychiatric disorder was found.

Tales of the “near daily abuse” suffered by Erwiana highlighted an international problem, with young women often leaving impoverished countries in Southeast Asia to seek out higher wages but finding themselves in vulnerable legal situations that allow agencies and employers to exercise “slavelike” employment practices.

In Erwiana’s case, she was hit so hard that her teeth fractured, had a vacuum-cleaner tube shoved down her mouth, and was starved, forcing her to escape and knock on a neighbor’s door at 2:30 a.m. to beg for help. She also never received a paycheck from Law.

The 24-year-old Erwiana was listed in the TIME 100 in 2014 for her eventual decision to speak up, despite threats made to her family by Law, and was present in court during sentencing.

Speaking afterward through an interpreter, she said, “I do hope this judgment will send a strong message to the Hong Kong government, and governments around the world, to treat migrant workers like human beings.” She added that she now planned to return to Indonesia to study.

Despite problems with illegal “placement fees” that subjugate helpers to debt bondage, a controversial law requiring workers to live with their employers (making them vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse) and multiple accounts of women working unlawful hours, Hong Kong has better legal protections than other countries where Southeast Asian foreign domestic workers are popular.

Nevertheless, in its State of the World’s Human Rights report released Thursday, Amnesty International said Hong Kong’s domestic workers were “heavily indebted” and castigated the Hong Kong government for failing “to properly monitor employment agencies.”

Judge Woodcock opined that abuses could also be curtailed “if domestic workers were not forced to live in employer’s houses.”

Widespread exploitation of domestic helpers in Asia has prompted Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to suggest that Indonesia should no longer send helpers abroad because “we should have some self-esteem and dignity.” However, the notion has been slammed by activists as unconstitutional.

TIME Hong Kong

Guilty Verdict Handed Down in Landmark Domestic-Worker-Abuse Case

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih
Kin Cheung—AP Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, center, accompanied by her supporters, walks out from a court in Hong Kong on Feb. 10, 2015

The plight of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih shocked the world

A 44-year-old Hong Kong woman and mother of two was found guilty Tuesday of criminally abusing her Indonesian domestic helper, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, whom she beat, refused to pay and even starved.

The case, tried in a Hong Kong court, has drawn global attention to plight of women from countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, who leave home to work as domestics in other countries but are often vulnerable to abuse at the hands of unscrupulous employers.

Judge Amanda Woodcock described Erwiana as a “prisoner” of employer Law Wan-tung, who sent her home after eight months, emaciated, scarred and barely able to walk, and who threatened to have Erwiana’s family killed if she ever reported the abuse.

The 24-year-old Erwiana was listed in the TIME 100 in 2014 for her decision to speak up. The court heard that during her employment Law punched her so hard that her teeth fractured, shoved a vacuum-cleaner tube down her mouth and denied her food until she was forced to knock on a neighbor’s door at 2:30 a.m. to beg for help. Erwiana also never received a paycheck from Law.

“To employers in Hong Kong, I hope they will start treating migrant domestic workers as workers and human beings and stop treating us as slaves,” Erwiana said in a written statement after the verdict. “Because as human beings, we all have equal rights.”

If given the highest possible sentence, Law could receive up to seven years in prison, according to Detective Superintendent David Cameron of the Hong Kong police.

“The message is if you live in a society that can afford domestic helpers, they are still protected by the law and even if there are cultural differences they are still treated equally,” Cameron said.

Sentencing will be on Feb. 27.

With reporting by Yenni Kwok / Hong Kong

TIME Behind the Photos

The 10 Best Daredevil Rooftopping Photos

These adrenaline seekers are not afraid of heights

Armed with cameras, they climb, often illegally, some of the world’s tallest structures. They’re in search of new sensations — or just new vantage points from which to admire the world.

Their names are Vitaliy Raskalov, Vadim Makhorov, Daniel Lau, Tom Ryaboi, Alexander Remnev and Kirill Oreshkin, and they’re not afraid to appear in the stunning and vertigo-inducing images they snap hundreds of feet above ground, as part of a trend known as rooftopping.

“We were curious to get to where you can’t shoot,” says the Russian duo Raskalov and Makhorov, known as On the Roofs. “With our photos, we try to show people the cities they know, but from unusual angles. From the ground, you can’t see such [things].”

The pair always searches for particularly high buildings — or ones that are highly symbolic — from Shanghai to Cairo, New York to Chicago. “They should offer stunning views,” Raskalov and Makhorov tell TIME. “The quality of our images is also [an important factor]. We use the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 6D. It may seem inconvenient to carry big cameras to such heights, but we’re used to it.”

Despite their newfound fame — many such climbers regularly receive sponsorship deals — Raskalov and Makhorov are still on the hunt for new structures to climb. “It doesn’t affect what we do.”

Myles Little, who edited this photo essay, is an associate photo editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Telecommunications

Hong Kong Billionaire Li Ka-shing Eyes British O2 Telecoms Network

Li Ka-shing, Victor Li
Vincent Yu—AP Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, right, and his son Victor Li, react during a press conference in Hong Kong Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.

Acquiring O2 may allow a merger with Li's Three mobile network

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing is negotiating to spend almost $15 billion to acquire O2, Britain’s second-largest mobile network.

Taking over O2, currently owned by Spain’s Telefonica, would allow Li, 86, to merge the company with Three mobile network, which is currently owned by his firm Hutchison Whampoa. That would create Britain’s largest mobile telecommunications group, reports the BBC.

Hutchison shares increased by 4% after reports of a potential deal emerged, but negotiations with Telefonica are expected to take weeks. The purchase may also be hampered if European industry regulators perceive the move infringes on competition protocols.

In a bid to restructure his business empire, which spans everything from telecommunications to ports, Li, who until he was overtaken by Alibaba boss Jack Ma this year was the richest man in Asia, has spent nearly $30 billion this year acquiring foreign assets to diversify his Hong Kong holdings.

[BBC]

TIME Gadgets

Watch the Latest Must-Have Smart Toys Unveiled at Asia’s Largest Toy Fair

Marvel at the next generation of smart toys

Asia’s biggest toy-and-game fair has just ended in Hong Kong with smart toys predictably stealing the show.

Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the four-day Toy and Game Fair boasted around 2,000 exhibitors hailing from over 40 countries, and is the second largest industry event in the world.

One big trend for 2015 saw traditional toys getting a high-tech makeover.

“The global trend nowadays is talking about technology and innovation,” Sophia Chong, assistant executive director for HKTDC, tells TIME. “So all buyers wanting something new are looking for technology that can be implanted or integrated with traditional play things.”

Educational toys that feature interactive learning were a big hit at the show. Learning Alphabet With Alpaca, from APPS1010, teaches kids how to spell by using augmented reality, imposing a computer-generated image on the user’s view of the real world. The app can even link up to social media so parents can become involved in their children’s play.

But the “toy” that dazzled most was the Inspire advanced drone system from DJI. It comes equipped with a professional 4K super high-resolution camera, state-of-the-art landscape positioning system and has dual controls so the pilot can focus on navigating while the camera operator simply shoots the film.

“The concept of 4K is something that’s four times better than HD, so it’s able to be shown on the big screen at the cinema,” says Lou Tze-ming, managing director for Windrider RSB Aviation, suppliers for DJI. “It’s the highest level in the industry.”

The Toy and Game Fair was run concurrently with the 2015 Baby Products Fair, the International Licensing Show and International Stationary Fair, and aims to connect businesses and buyers from all around the globe.

“The overriding element is internationality,” says Chong. “It is very important for [exporters] to get into the market place and to show to the buyers their newest products.”

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Student Leader Joshua Wong Questioned Over Pro-Democracy Protests

HONG KONG-CHINA-POLITICS-DEMOCRACY
Philippe Lopez—AFP/Getty Images Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong is pictured outside the High Court in Hong Kong on Jan. 8, 2015

Authorities have begun cracking down on organizers of the city's so-called Umbrella Revolution

Correction appended: Jan. 16, 2015

Student leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations, including 18-year-old Joshua Wong, were questioned on Friday with various offenses relating to the civil-disobedience movement.

“I was held for three hours and I was arrested on charges of calling for, inciting and participating in an unauthorized assembly,” Wong, the leader of the student group Scholarism, told reporters at the city’s police headquarters, according to Agence France-Presse.

Wong was named one of TIME’s Most Influential Teens of 2014.

Authorities in the Chinese special administrative region have recently begun targeting those connected with the protests, which paralyzed downtown areas of this freewheeling financial hub for three months.

Demonstrators were demanding the right to freely elect the head of the city’s government by 2017. Authorities in Beijing insist on first vetting all candidates.

The original version of this story incorrectly described Wong’s encounter with police on Dec. 16, 2015. He was questioned.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Media Mogul Jimmy Lai Targeted By Petrol Bombs

Demonstrators Continue to Occupy Streets As Xi Calls Hong Kong Protests Illegal
Lam Yik Fei—Bloomberg/Getty Images Jimmy Lai, chairman of Next Media Ltd., sits for a photograph in a tent outside the Central Government Offices in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014.

The prominent democracy campaigner has long been an outspoken critic of the Beijing government

Unidentified attackers targeted prominent Hong Kong democracy figure and media mogul Jimmy Lai on Monday, throwing petrol bombs at his residence and the office of the liberal newspaper he founded.

Security camera footage uploaded to the website of the newspaper, Apple Daily, shows a masked man driving up to Lai’s home and throwing a gasoline bomb at the gate, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A similar bomb targeted the headquarters of the paper’s parent company Next Media Ltd. in a separate incident.

“I am fine. I am not scared,” said Lai, who resigned as chairman of Next Media last month after being arrested for his role in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

Lai, an outspoken critic of the Beijing government, has been the target of violence in the past, as has Apple Daily.

[WSJ]

TIME Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Authorities Want to Take Teen Protesters From Their Families

Two 14-year-olds may be taken into care for participating in pro-democracy gatherings

Authorities in Hong Kong are seeking to take two children from their families for participating in the city’s pro-democracy demonstrations, in a heavy-handed move that could become a new rallying point for protesters.

One, a 14-year-old girl, was on Monday sent to a children’s home for three weeks while social-welfare investigators review an application brought by the Hong Kong police to remove the child from her father’s care. She was released from the juvenile home on bail on Wednesday night, her lawyer, Jonathan Man, tells TIME.

The girl was arrested in the early hours of Dec. 23 for drawing chalk flowers on the Lennon Wall, a curving swath of concrete leading to the city’s Central Government Offices that was covered with messages and slogans during the so-called Umbrella Revolution.

The other child, also 14, was arrested in November, during the dismantling of a street occupation. He has been allowed to stay with his parents while awaiting another hearing on Jan. 12.

Neither child has been charged with a crime.

Hong Kong media published images of what were said to be the girl’s chalk drawings, which were widely shared on social media.

Patricia Ho, a lawyer who has represented both children, says that the effort to remove the children from their homes is “disproportionate” to their circumstances. Such a drastic measure, she said, is usually reserved for cases where a child’s parents abandon them or when the child is engaging in serious self-harm, including prostitution or selling or using drugs.

“That is not the case here,” says Ho. “There is no severe issue that would affect their right to be with their families.”

“So all I can think of then is that police are using whatever mechanism they can think of to stop teenagers from participating in any protest,” she says.

Hong Kong police said in an emailed statement that an application to transfer a child from his or her home is filed based on numerous factors, including academic background and prior arrest records. Such an application is submitted in “the best interest of the subject child/juvenile without any political consideration,” the statement said.

The Hong Kong democracy movement is primarily student driven, and many teenagers were arrested for participating in street occupations that began on Sept. 28 and lasted until mid-December. High school students in uniform were a common sight on the barricades and in the study areas built at protest sites so that students fighting for free elections would not fall behind on homework.

Though the streets have been cleared, demonstrators have returned nightly to Mong Kok — a blue-collar district on the teeming Kowloon peninsula — under the guise of doing holiday shopping or caroling. Hong Kong police said in a statement Tuesday that children as young as 13 years old were among the 49 people arrested in Mong Kok over the Christmas holiday weekend for offenses including disorderly conduct.

Meanwhile, two democratic legislators on Wednesday visited the children’s home where the girl — referred to on Twitter as Chalk Girl, or the Chalktivist — is being detained, and posed for photographs with copies of her chalk drawing. Scholarism, the high-school-student group that has jointly helmed the protests with its undergraduate counterpart, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, also organized a group of supporters to color the pavement outside the children’s home in chalk flowers.

Ho says the girl has had one prior encounter with police, in which she was the victim of a bullying incident at school, and lives with her father, who suffers from serious hearing loss. The boy is a good student from a “really lovely family,” Ho says.

The lawyer also says that the girl cried in court on learning she would be sent to a children’s home to await the court’s decision and that the father has promised “to go to great lengths” to ensure that his daughter can remain with him, including making a desperate pledge to follow her everywhere.

“She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go home with her father,” says Ho. “She was very worried she would spent New Year’s Eve in custody.”

The girl, released Wednesday evening, must abide by bail conditions including a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, says Man, who is currently representing the teenager. She and her father “were quite relieved to go home for New Year’s Eve as a family,” he says.

TIME Hong Kong

Christmas Comes Early for Hong Kong, as Van Spills Millions of Dollars on Road

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Getty Images/Imagemore

Good all year long? An accidental cash windfall tested Hong Kongers' niceness on Christmas Eve

Christmas came early for some Hong Kongers on Wednesday afternoon, when a security van spilled 35 million Hong Kong dollars, or more than $4.5 million, in cash on a major thoroughfare.

The sudden bounty — believed to be the gift of the van’s faulty rear door — brought traffic in this city’s congested Wan Chai district to a sudden halt, the South China Morning Post reports. The unexpected, and unintentional, present also presented Hong Kongers with a choice: play nice, keep calm and carry on; or test Santa, keep calm and, well, carry off.

It appears that many were not terribly up to niceness this particular afternoon. With traffic surprised to a stop, passengers ducked out of their cars and onlookers scurried into the dreamlike scene to ferret some of the loot out of the road, local media video footage shows. The cash was packaged in bundles of 500 Hong Kong dollar bills, or about $64, and some bills floated loose onto the street.

Police estimated that about 15 million Hong Kong dollars, or around $2 million, went missing and encouraged the opportunists to give back their Christmas Eve hauls, warning that taking the cash was a “very serious crime.”

Christmas, however, did not come at all for the British security firm responsible for transporting the cash. The agency, G4S, told the South China Morning Post it expects to be liable for losses.

[South China Morning Post]

TIME Hong Kong

Billionaire Hong Kong Tycoon and Former Official Jailed for Corruption

Vincent Yu—AP In this photo taken through a tinted glass, former Hong Kong Chief Secretary Rafael Hui, right, is escorted by a staff member from Hong Kong Correctional Services inside a van outside the High Court in Hong Kong on Dec. 19, 2014

Case seen as a victory for transparency in China's freewheeling financial hub

The former No. 2 official in the Hong Kong government, Rafael Hui, and billionaire Thomas Kwok — until last week co-chairman of the world’s second largest property developer by market value, Sun Hung Kai — were sentenced Tuesday to 7½ and five years in prison respectively on graft charges.

Hui was ordered to pay the Hong Kong government $1.4 million, equivalent to the bribe he had been found guilty of accepting from Kwok, the South China Morning Post reports.

The two are the most prominent Hong Kongers to date to be snared by the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption. They were found guilty last week of colluding in the early to middle part of the past decade to ensure advantages for Sun Hung Kai.

“It is vitally important in these times the Hong Kong government and business community remain and are seen to remain corruption-free,” said Judge Andrew Macrae, before delivering his sentence on the 66-year-old Hui and 63-year-old Kwok.

Kwok’s top aide Thomas Chan and ex-stock-exchange official Francis Kwan were also sentenced to six and five years respectively. His brother Raymond Kwok was acquitted of all charges.

[SCMP]

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