Hong Kong couple jailed for abuse of Indonesian maid

A Hong Kong couple were jailed Wednesday for a shocking string of attacks on their Indonesian domestic helper, including burning her with an iron and beating her with a bike chain.

Tai Chi-wai, 42, and his 41-year-old wife Catherine Au subjected their former maid Kartika Puspitasari to a two-year campaign of violence and humiliation, the court heard, which also saw her assaulted with clothes hangers and a paper cutter.

Protesters outside the court held a placard dubbing the couple "Mr and Mrs Evil" and called the city to "End the social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong!"

Hong Kong is home to nearly 300,000 maids from mainly southeast Asian countries, predominantly from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Judge So Wai-tak, who described the attacks on Puspitasari as "repeated and continual", sentenced Tai, a salesman by profession, to three years and three months in prison for one count each of assault causing actual bodily harm and wounding.

Au, a hospital assistant, was given five-and-a-half years for two charges of assault causing actual bodily harm and four counts of wounding, three of them with intent.

In a courtroom which was packed with rights activists, Indonesian migrant workers groups, reporters, and representatives from the city's Indonesian consulate the judge described the couple -- who remained impassive during sentencing -- of "breaching integrity" and for committing a "serious offence".

However, he found them not guilty of the charge of false imprisonment over the allegation that the couple left the maid without food or water after tying her to a chair and forcing her to wear a diaper while they went on five-day vacation.

Both the accused were jailed immediately after the verdict.

"Employers and employees in Hong Kong should resolve differences through patience and tolerance," So said, adding that the couple's actions may damage the city's image as a safe place to work.

During the two year period when she was employed, Puspitasari said that she received no salary, was banned from talking to anyone and could not leave the couples' residence.

Puspitasari, who worked in Singapore for seven years before coming to Hong Kong, sought refuge at the Indonesian consulate in Hong Kong after fleeing her employers.

The defence had previously accused her of lying, citing a history of disputes over the her wages.

A union representing domestic workers held a protest in March to call for an end to a policy which requires foreign maids to live with their employers, saying the rule exposes them to assault and sexual harassment.