Indonesian Domestic Worker Live Broadcasts Abuse Situation Apple Daily Video News Misleads Readers with Biased Reporting

06/03/2018 - 6:04pm


Translation: 攤開嚟講翻譯小組/Open News Translators

Chinese Version:印傭直播虐打實況 蘋果動新聞偏頗誤導

This past Wednesday (28 February) an Indonesian migrant domestic worker working in Hong Kong was met with abuse during a Facebook Live broadcast, with the abuser even threatening murder at one point. Bahasa Indonesia-, English-, and Thai-language social media all published footage of the incident, inciting the wrath of netizens. At present, organizations assisting migrants have already made contact with the abused domestic worker, with the police also getting involved.

Contrary to how widely the incident was reported internationally, local news outlet Apple Daily's livestream news channel only released a heavily edited version of the footage, with incredulous and biased anti-worker commentary, persuading netizens into believing that the worker had somehow faked the incident. WKNews sought to review more complete and unedited footage, in addition to interviewing migrant domestic worker organizations for a better understanding of what transpired, which revealed how biased Apple Daily's reporting really was. The following is a breakdown of how news of the incident was manipulated.

One: Source of Video

Concerning this incident, WKNews has found two clips – totaling 26 minutes of footage – on the Web. The footage widely circulated by netizens is only the second clip, which is also the clip that Apple Daily used. Fewer people have circulated the first clip. However, it is only this first clip that actually shows how the argument started.

Two: What Happened

The beginning: The Apple Daily clip begins with the elderly woman loudly stating that she would kill the worker. After this opening statement, the two parties are seen yelling at each other. The written report does not account for how the argument erupted, writing only the following according to what was in the second clip: in the film, the elderly woman questioned the helper “do I treat you that badly? You tell me, ask your conscience.” The employee responds bitterly that she is scolded for minor incidents, “You are always right... I don't know what you want.”

As mentioned, Apple Daily's reporting cites only the second clip, and does not account for how the argument actually began. The first clip shows that the two parties began to argue due to a disagreement about phone use. As the elderly woman only recharges her phone once a week, she does not understand and is unsatisfied with why the worker recharges her phone daily. The elderly woman believes that the worker is lying when she explains that it is internet use on her phone that requires her to recharge her phone so often; the elderly woman believes, instead, it is because she uses her phone often for phone calls that her battery requires daily recharging. When the worker shuts the door of her room to use her phone, the elderly woman thinks that it is because she is trying to hide something from her. (In the second clip, the worker says that she is only playing on her phone for a bit before she rests.)

Also, communication between the two looks to be often unsuccessful. The elderly woman has repeatedly expressed that she does not like the worker talking back to her: “It really hurts me when you talk back to me.” When the worker spoke in Bahasa Indonesia, the elderly woman reacted strongly, slapping the worker, believing that the worker is cursing her, and says to her in Cantonese: “If you want to badmouth me, do it directly, why speak Bahasa Indonesia?”

Not only does Apply Daily fail to relay any context for the conflict, it also chose to use the most sensational parts of the footage. The video even has a narrator pushing a certain interpretation of events, saying, “the elderly woman keeps on scolding, the helper keeps on talking back, even turning to the camera to speak in Bahasa Indonesia,” as if the worker were inviting abuse upon herself. “You don't understand, popo? Don't worry, we're here to translate it for you.” In a facetious tone, the narrator offers the following translation, “Popo is this type of person, really bad, she will stop after a while. She is always like this. Look, this is where popo struck me,” attempting to turn a serious situation into a joke.

Footage and Photos

The headline of the Apply Daily report reads “Indonesian Helper Smacked and Choked by Employer, Opens FB Live to Make It Everyone's Business”; the narrator starts with, “the Indonesian helper opens FB Live, films her and her elderly employer fighting.” The narrator then goes on to say, “the helper then uploaded a couple of pictures, exhibiting the wounds on her body, but doing this with a haughty pout on her face.” Such narrative tactics lead readers to believe that the helper involved intentionally set her employer up. Under this Apple Daily on-line article, there were over a hundred messages posted from readers (see quotes below), with the majority of them accusing the migrant worker of framing her elderly employer.

In actuality, the Indonesian worker decided to use FB Live and photographs because the elderly woman has a terrible memory, and the employer – the elderly woman's son – does not believe that the worker was ever hit. As such, the worker needed evidence of it happening. And as for the photographs in which she is seen 'pouting', the accompanying text for those photos in Bahasa Indonesia states, “this is popo's doing. My lips have popo's fingerprints. Popo has hit me multiple times, which is why my chest is all red. My hands have to hold up the phone, which is why I could not defend myself from the blows.”

A typical Hong Kong person might not think of it, but migrant workers and Hong Kong people, generally speaking, have different habits concerning use of FB Live. On the Web, there have been previous news reports of incidents in which the use of FB Live unintentionally violates expectations of privacy. In reality, migrant workers use FB Live a lot more frequently than Hong Kong people. To the migrant worker, FB Live is a means of communicating with their friends and family. AMCB (Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body) spokesperson, Eni Lestari, points out that when the worker has no one to turn to for grievances, she will use FB Live as an outlet. Is the clip indeed, as some netizens have claimed in their comments, the result of premeditated entrapment? Eni points that although the clips have been widely circulated amongst Indonesian migrant workers themselves, viewers' opinions are polarized: some people are sympathetic and some are critical, with many thinking that the worker should not have dared to talk back.

The followings are several examples of comments from readers of Apple Daily’s report:

[XXX: It's so obvious that the helper set up the shot to entrap popo. (Because of the helper's incessant sassing, popo became agitated and that's why she smacked and choked the helper.) Popo should not have hit anybody.

XXX: Infuriating business employing Filipina helpers like this one! Super defiant and nasty! Popo is actually super innocent. She paid someone to help her, only to have to suffer her spite. Really hate the helper! Really makes me want to hit her!

XXX: Of course no one should resort to physical violence! But there are so many foreign helpers these days that act up. They act uppity and talk back, and they don't have basic manners. They bank on being to able to find another job quickly, so they keep pushing your

buttons. Firing them means having to pay them extra. Replacing them gives another 10 grand to the agency. If not from a rich family, why would you even want to hire a helper? Hiring a domestic worker really depends on your luck – some are great, some are scum.

XXX: The helper basically provoked and tripped up popo on purpose. Another quick payday, Indonesian helper is a bad person.

XXX: So true!

XXX: But the fact remains, popo hit someone. There is no evidence for everything else.

XXX: I don't think that you can completely believe the footage. Someone set out to prey on the unsuspecting. The helper is really problematic, talking back at every turn. Intentionally angering popo. Also, the old lady gave her a swollen face? Just from the footage, that is called 'smacking'?? That gave her a swollen face?? The helper thought nothing of calling the old lady crazy... popo really gave her a swollen face??? hahaha. The helper is no angel. I suggest popo fires her soon. And in the event that anything should happen to popo – all alone with no one else around... who is to say who hit who?!!!

XXX: Totally a case of entrapment to scam the old lady. Got footage, called the police, have popo pay her out, get a new employer, with benefits, what a trick! To any copycats out there, ask the agency where the helper lives and who are the members of her family. Then tell the agency to inform the helper of the risk to keep her in line.

XXX: Something really wrong with this helper. Otherwise, this elderly person wouldn't have treated her like that. Look at this clip; the helper is so devious.]

Of course, all of the footage is only of a single incident. What did the relationship between the two parties look like before the incident? What were the conditions that prefigured the incident? The answers to these questions await further investigation. This is not the first time, however, that a migrant worker is abused, or that media coverage is distorted.

Elderly care requires many supporting services, government subsidy for hiring migrant domestic workers for eldercare is entirely impractical

In November of last year, the government declared that it is currently considering subsidizing the elderly living alone in public estate housing to employ migrant domestic helpers for their care. Using this sort of 'handout' mechanism to address the real needs of caring for the elderly is not only inadequate, it completely runs counter to the public's long-term demand for more community-based welfare services. In reality, elderly people with many different health and mobility issues require different measures for appropriate care, including changes to their diet and exercise. A migrant domestic helper may very well not have the necessary skills to handle the job.

If the elderly care recipient is already seeking to depend on someone else for their daily care, why should they be expected to take on the role of the employer – arranging tasks for the helper to carry out, complying with contractual obligations, and upholding the labour rights of the helper - with any success? Leaving just the elderly employer and the migrant helper to live together in isolated quarters, if conflicts like that that took place in the FB Live clip should occur, the consequences could be tragic. And if anything unfortunate should happen to the elderly employer, people will seek to place all blame on the worker, allowing government to evade responsibility completely.

Mandatory live-in and two week rule forces migrant domestic workers to stay silent in face of violence

Did the elderly woman really intend to murder, with true malice? The abuse shown in the footage at hand is unacceptable. But, in the less circulated footage, before popo became overly agitated, she can be seen admitting to wrongdoing. At one point, she left the worker, Yuni's, room. Later, however, appearing agitated once again, popo directs intensified violence towards Yuni.

Reflecting on this incident of interpersonal violence, we should look beyond judging who was right or wrong, and examine instead what sort of system would give rise to such incidents. Eni from AMCB points out that the mandatory live-in rule makes it easier for tension to exist between employer and employee. And the government has directed no resources into creating shelters for migrant workers. In the instance that a migrant worker suffers abuse, even if she wanted to escape, she knows that she has nowhere to go, and so must suffer in silence in order to be able to stay. Additionally, when a migrant domestic worker leaves a job, her work visa only gives her two weeks to find new employment, without which she must leave the city. This rule is only imposed on migrant domestic workers; other foreign workers are not restricted in the same way. Because of the aforementioned reasons and more, when faced with abuse, migrant domestic workers seldom leave their jobs. Abuse then escalates to a point where they cannot choose to leave at all, as we saw in the cases of Kartika and Erwiana.

Hong Kong infamous for cases of abused domestic workers; vested political parties and employers attempt to misdirect public

In 2013 and 2014, respectively, the now well-known cases of Kartika and Erwiana, in which the two Indonesian migrant domestic workers suffered severe abuse at the hands of their employers, came to light. Subsequently, both employers were convicted and incarcerated. The two cases were widely reported by many international news outlets, which forced the local public to take more seriously the plight of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong – apart from threats to personal safety, migrant domestic workers are also commonly subjected to unfit living conditions, overworking, and overcharging by agencies, etc. Under greater scrutiny, it also became necessary for the government to respond to the unions' longstanding demand of tighter regulation for professional employment agencies by amending previous legislation: the Employment Agency Regulation.

Still, as migrant domestic worker groups and unions garnered greater support and attention, political parties, such as the New People's Party and the Liberal Party, started to organize employers of foreign domestic helpers. On the one hand, they propped up widely known abuse cases as isolated incidents; and on the other, they propagated unsubstantiated claims that helpers were “trying to get fired” for their own reasons; that helpers are becoming “princesses”; that helpers were seducing their male employers and breaking up families, and so on, with the intention of misdirecting the public and minimizing the impact of any news on migrant domestic worker abuse surfacing.

Next Digital demonizes foreign domestic helpers; have been doing so since long before

Next Digital, a mass media outlet, habitually uses extremely biased language to report on any news regarding migrant domestic workers. In February 2016, in issue no. 1352 of Next Magazine, the following headline appeared: “Erwiana's employer in tatters, plaintively claims that she was wronged”. The article extensively reported on the purported 'wrongful incarceration' of the employer, Law Wan-tung, and portrays her family as victims who are being relentlessly harassed by worker grievances brought forward by labour organizations, “causing what was a nice family to fall into disgrace;” meanwhile, it dismisses the many pieces of evidence and reiterated rationale of the court that resulted in Law's guilty verdict. The article also omitted any mention of how Law's family intentionally hid and moved private assets around to avoid having to pay Erwiana the back pay and other compensatory

damages owed to her.

Update: Apple Daily claimed today in an article under the headline of “Upset with charging phone behind closed doors, causing subsequent altercation: 79-year-old employer who smacked Indonesian helper is out on bail, claims memory loss due to dementia” that “it was only yesterday that they were able to acquire another piece of footage 26 minutes long.” In actuality, the footage that the media outlet refers to has been uploaded onto Youtube since February 28. This new Apple Daily article was read by less than a tenth of the people who read the previous article. There is a great disparity in the reach of the two articles, making the second article hardly sufficient in terms of overturning the damaging impression made by the first.

The original footages:

TKW Hongkong Dipukul Majikannya (Migrant Worker in Hong Kong Beaten up by Employer)

Clip 1 - 00:00-13:20, Clip 2 - 13:21-26:01