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'Tortured' maid's ex-boss denies charges in court

HONG KONG - A Hong Kong woman accused of torturing her Indonesian maid in a case that sparked international concern on Tuesday denied all the charges against her.


Law Wan-tung, a 44-year-old mother-of-two, was arrested in January for seriously wounding Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, her former domestic helper. She faces charges including grievous bodily harm with intent, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages -- a total of 20 counts, some of which also relate to her previous employees. Prosecutors have said she turned household items such as a mop, a ruler and a clothes hanger into "weapons" against her maids. Erwiana, who said she suffered months of abuse, left Hong Kong in January and was admitted to hospital in Indonesia, emaciated and in a critical condition.


Before a packed courtroom, Law remained silent and kept her head lowered throughout a brief appearance in the dock, as her defence counsel lodged a plea of not guilty to all the charges. The case was adjourned to July 10. Police officer Chung Chi-ming said outside the District Court that more than a dozen witnesses could be called, including Sulistyaningsih, two other maids who were allegedly abused, doctors, and employment agency representatives. The case highlighted concern over the treatment of domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city, sparking angry protests as well as calls for legislation to provide better protection.


The Asian financial hub is home to nearly 300,000 maids, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines. Amnesty International last year condemned the "slavery-like" conditions faced by some domestic helpers and accused authorities of "inexcusable" inaction. Time magazine in April named Sulistyaningsih as one of the world's 100 most influential people, hailing her bravery in speaking out against her ex-employer.

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