News and Comment: Capitalist Hong Kong Grapples With High Levels Of Slavery Of Women

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
News and Comment
Capitalist Hong Kong Grapples with High Levels of Slavery of Women

Recently, the modern and high profile image of Democratic Hong Kong as one of the global financial hubs has been under the spotlight due to “slavery-like” practices befalling hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the country. The case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih – an Indonesian female domestic worker who had been abused by her employer for 8 months until she was almost paralyzed— stirred public sympathy amongst Hong Kong residents and resulted in a large march in Hong Kong on January 12th attended by 6000 Indonesian and Filipino migrant workers as well as Hong Kong residents. They called the Hong Kong police to advance their investigation process of the Erwiana case and review the manner by which police responded to complaints from that domestic migrant worker.

It was reported by the South China Morning Post that the Hong Kong police initially refused to investigate the case of Erwiana, and this triggered the strong protest from the public, whereas it was not the first case of violence against domestic workers in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong’s Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) released a study last year based on interviews of more than 3,000 foreign domestic workers and found that nearly a third of them did not have decent accommodation. In addition, in November last year, Amnesty International released a report that condemned the “slavery-like” conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian women working in Hong Kong and accused the Hong Kong government of turning a blind eye and failing to address this practice of modern slavery.

Hong Kong is home to nearly 300,000 maids from mainly Southeast Asian countries, the majority of which are women – predominantly from Indonesia and the Philippines – and has come under growing criticism from concern groups over their treatment. Hong Kong’s policies on migrant workers have often made maids reluctant to report abuse for fear of losing their livelihoods and being deported if they fail to find new jobs swiftly.

This is the high cost of the Capitalist way of life in a city that is said to be a representation of modern economic progress in Asia. Hong Kong, which has a high human development index, is actually perpetuating the practice of humiliation against human dignity where hundreds of thousands of female domestic workers are discriminated against, suffer from an indecent work environment, and even experience physical abuse. No different from Hong Kong, are many cities in the capitalist West who pioneered the modern secular life such as London and Ohio, which also suffer from high levels of trafficking and slavery of women. This proves the impotency of capitalist democratic states to prevent slavery, injustice, and mass dehumanization of millions of vulnerable women and to safeguard human dignity.

In this modern age, Capitalism has successfully built a predatory human civilization. This is the result of its creation of extreme global inequality in wealth that causes mass economic migration from poorer nations in pursuit of jobs that are often low-paid, involve poor working conditions and include few rights for the employer due to capitalist free-market deregulation policies that value profit-gain over human dignity. It is also due to the materialistic nature of the ideology that sanctifies securing economic gain as the primary goal of the society which inevitably fuels the spirit of dehumanization and exploitation of women and vulnerable. This is alongside the fact that the capitalist industrial machine that exploits women through ads, pornography, entertainment, etc. for the sake of profit not only degrades the status of women but also promotes the view that the exploitation of women for money is an acceptable practice. This is the same mentality carried by traffickers involved in the practice of modern slavery. Hence under Capitalism, vulnerable women will always be victims of various capitalist predators – from the employers to the recruiting companies, and even including the rulers of the country of origin of the migrant workers who do not care about the rights of workers they send abroad but rather are only concerned about their high economic remittance figures.

In stark contrast with Capitalism, Islam is an ideology that is very focused on prevention of tyranny in all its forms, including the practice of slavery. Its principles safeguard against the enslavement of individuals. For example, the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:

«ثَلَاثَةٌ أَنَا خَصْمُهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ رَجُلٌ أَعْطَى بِي ثُمَّ غَدَرَ وَرَجُلٌ بَاعَ حُرًّا فَأَكَلَ ثَمَنَهُ وَرَجُلٌ اسْتَأْجَرَ أَجِيرًا فَاسْتَوْفَى مِنْهُ وَلَمْ يُعْطِ أَجْرَهُ
There are three persons whom I will oppose on the Day of Resurrection: a man who gives his word by Me but proves treacherous; a man who sells a free person and consumes the price; and a man who employs a worker and receives a completed job but he does not pay him his wages.” [Sahih Bukhari, Number 430]

Besides this, Islam is an ideology that places the protection of the honor of women as a priority. They are viewed as a dignity that must be protected and financially maintained and NOT seen as cheap labor. The prevention of tyranny and protection of women will only be realized under the Islamic ideological system of the Khilafah which has a political vision to implement ALL the Islamic principles and laws in society. The Khilafah is the only system capable of providing credible and practical solutions to the various political, economic, and social problems that currently afflict women throughout Muslim countries and around the world, including Indonesian women.

Written for the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by
Fika Komara
Member of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir