INDONESIA/HONG KONG: Proper protection for Erwiana will show genuine respect by the authorities

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that Erwiana has arrived in Hong Kong to attend a series of medical examinations to support her case against her former abusive employer, Law Wan Tung. However, we deplore the fact that the Indonesian government and the Hong Kong authorities have been treating her more like a prisoner than a victim who needs genuine protection. Upon her arrival on 7 April 2014 at around 4 p.m., Erwiana was escorted by the staff of the Indonesian consulate and the Hong Kong police directly to the Indonesian consulate and told that she must stay there during her visit in Hong Kong. Erwiana was not given any choice but to join them, as she and the team from Indonesia – who has been assisting her continuously since the beginning of the case – were threatened with deportation if they refused to go to the Indonesian consulate. (Photo: Erwiana on the flight to Hong Kong. Courtesy of Riyan)

We seriously question the good faith of the Indonesian government as well as that of the Hong Kong authorities in providing protection to Erwiana. We have been informed that Erwiana’s ticket to Hong Kong was withheld by the Indonesian government and was given to her at the last minute – only on Sunday, 6 April 2014. Her lawyers from the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Yogyakarta) were not even properly consulted or informed by the Indonesian authorities on the plan to fly Erwiana to Hong Kong. A member of the staff of the Indonesian authorities was also reported to have asked Erwiana to revoke the power of attorney she had given to her current lawyer, and tried to persuade her to accept the assistance of the legal counsel provided by the Indonesian government. Two Indonesian domestic workers who have been assisting Erwiana since the beginning, Riyan and Iwenk, were initially not allowed to stay with her at the Indonesian consulate. Riyan was the person who met Erwiana when she was quietly flown back to Indonesia by the employer in early January this year and revealed her case to the public.

Upon constant pressure from the civil society organisations in Hong Kong, Riyan and Iwenk were eventually allowed to stay with Erwiana at the Indonesian consulate. However, it has been reported that the consulate staff have let it be known that their presence is not welcome.

Given the fact that the Indonesian government has insisted on separating Erwiana from her team of supporters, we are of the view that the so-called ‘protection’ given by the government is not genuine. We suspect that Erwiana’s case has been politicised by the current government and the incumbent party to gain more votes in the upcoming general election, to be held tomorrow on 9 April 2014. It is therefore not genuine protection but rather a political ploy.

We are also extremely disappointed with the Hong Kong authorities who appear to be colluding with the Indonesian government in providing this fake protection. As a territory with a Basic Law that guarantees the fundamental rights of its citizens, Hong Kong should have realised that genuine protection respects the will of the individual being protected. The Hong Kong authorities should have done better by not being an accomplice of the Indonesian government in separating Erwiana from the individuals and groups who have been assisting her, even before the Indonesian government was aware of the case.

We therefore are calling both the Indonesian government and the Hong Kong authorities to respect Erwiana’s will and decisions in all matters that are related to her case. Erwiana is an adult, capable of making sensible decisions, who is assisted by a lawyer who can inform her of the legal consequences of her actions and decisions. The Indonesian government and the Hong Kong authorities should stop treating Erwiana as a prisoner and start treating her like an individual victim who needs their assistance. The Indonesian government should also stop the attempts of excluding Erwiana from her assisting team from Indonesia, If the Indonesian government is genuinely concerned in providing protection for her, they should treat all members of her team as partners, and not enemies. Finally, we urge both the Indonesian government and the authorities to give Erwiana the option to meet with civil society organisations, activists, and the media who have been campaigning for her case. By refusing her this option, they are sending a clear message that they intend to censor any comments she might want to make.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-060-2014
Countries : Hong Kong, Indonesia,
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Independence of judges & lawyers, Labour rights, Migrant workers,