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Case of ‘abused’ Filipina not over as employer pleads guilty to immigration, labor offences

02 November 2019

Lanie Grace Rosareal


By The SUN

Nearly two years after fleeing what she claimed was the extensive abuse she suffered at the hands of her employer’s live-in partner, a Filipina domestic helper expressed mixed feelings at the conclusion of an immigration and labor case against the pair on Oct 21 in Shatin court.

Lanie Grace Rosareal, 29, was supposed to testify against her former employer Leung Shet-ying, 64, and her partner Au Wai-chun, 66, but she was not called in court because Leung decided to plead guilty to all the charges against her.

Au went scot free after the prosecution offered no evidence against her.

“Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed with Au getting acquitted instead of being convicted, but I’m also already so happy that they (sic) admitted their offenses,” Rosareal said after being told of the outcome.

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She had been outside the courtroom, eagerly awaiting her turn at the witness stand, so she did not hear Leung admit her guilt.

Rosareal said it was a shame she did not see the pair react to what she had to say.

Leung was convicted of not paying Rosareal’s wages on time, and of abetting the violation of her visa condition by allowing her to work illegally in the house of Au’s son in an adjacent building in Tseung Kwan-O. She will be sentenced on Nov 4.

Rosareal’s pro bono lawyer Patricia Measor-Ho says the case isn’t over yet, as her firm plans to apply for a judicial review of the decision by the Hong Kong police not to file charges against Leung and Au .In a letter dated Oct 3 sent to Ho’s law firm, the police said that it was not prosecuting anyone in relation to the case on the advice of the Justice Department.

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Ho finds this unacceptable, and says her firm is planning to apply for judicial review of the police’s decision not to file criminal charges.

“The government is at pains to reassure the public that the existing system in place more than adequately tackles trafficking and forced labour – well how does that sit with the conclusion of the Department of Justice that there is no criminal case to pursue?” says Ho. “Clearly something’s amiss.”

Ho’s firm has been trying to press criminal charges against the two based on Rosareal’s allegation that Au had inflicted harm on her in the last year of her employment by Leung, who did nothing to stop the abuse.

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Crucial to the prosecution of the case was a “penalty notebook” in which Au appears to have made Rosareal list down all sorts of imaginary infractions, for which the employer imposed a corresponding penalty.

When added up, the penalties always exceeded what the helper was supposed to make each month, so she ended up not being paid any wages for months.

Rosareal managed to bring the notebook with her when she fled the employers’ flat on Nov. 9, 2017, along with fellow domestic worker Rowela Suete, who had blown the whistle on Au’s alleged abuses.

Lanie Grace Rosareal with her bruised forehead after her ordeal.


By then, Rosareal had been working for Leung and Au for nearly three years, having signed her first work contract on Jan. 24, 2014.

The two Filipinas were taken to the Consulate’s shelter, after which they both went to the Western Police Station to file a complaint. No statement was taken from them, however, and they were eventually told to go to Tseung Kwan O police station which had jurisdiction over their case.

It took some time before Rosareal was told to return to the TKO station to make a formal complaint. By this time, Suete had already returned to the Philippines, having settled her labor claim against Leung.

Rosareal, on the other hand, pursued her claim at the Labor Tribunal.

At the initial hearing of the case in January last year, Leung offered to pay her former helper only $2,500 for unpaid wages and one-way air ticket to the Philippines.

Rosareal accepted the offer, but reserved her right to pursue her full claim of more than $200,000 for unpaid salary for six months, wage in lieu, cancelled holidays, travel allowance and compensation.

She alleged that Leung would pay her salary each month, but would then tell her to settle the penalties imposed on her by Au, a retired civil servant, for all sorts of alleged misdeed.

The monthly payment she got from Leung was reportedly never enough to settle all of Au’s claims, which were all duly recorded in the penalty notebook.

When asked about this at the Labour Tribunal hearing, Leung said that as far as she was concerned, Rosareal was paid her salary each month. It was not her fault that the maid in turn handed all the money to her partner to pay for her misdeed.

Apart from the non-payment of wages, Rosareal claimed Au subjected her to almost daily torture, including hitting her on the head with a knife and a TV remote control, clawing her wrists and neck, poking her throat with a pair of scissors, and making her bang her head on the floor.

Au reportedly did these less than two years after she was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for 18 months, for throwing a cup of hot water at a Bangladeshi maid also hired by Leung earlier.

Their encounter in Shatin court was the first in nearly two years, and Rosareal said she had looked forward to giving evidence against Leung and Au to see how they would react, and was disappointed that she did not get her day in court.

Leung and Au each faced 10 counts of failing to pay wages within due date, one count of failing to pay wages within due date on termination of contract, as well as four counts of aiding, abetting, counseling or procuring the breach of condition of stay.

But Leung, as Rosareal’s contractual employer, was the only one against whom the case was allowed to proceed.

As soon as the magistrate began the session, which was conducted entirely in Chinese, the lawyers for both sides informed the court about the deal to allow Leung to plead guilty.

After two breaks, Magistrate Ko ordered the charges against Leung to be read to her and her plea taken.

Leung pleaded guilty in a feeble voice to each count. At some point during the reading of the charges, she and Au mumbled their objection but Wong’s assistant gestured at them to keep quiet.

Shortly later, the magistrate convicted Leung and dismissed the charges against Au after the prosecution offered no evidence against her.

Ko extended Leung’s bail on the same terms until her sentencing on Nov 4. He told Au to go and claim her bail money from the courthouse.

Au showed up in court in a wheelchair pushed by Leung. Au was wearing a neck brace and a thin plaster cast on her right hand up to her mid-forearm.

Outside the courtroom, Leung and Au encountered Rosareal, who said her former employers gave her intimidating looks.

They met Rosareal again outside the General Services office on the second floor of the courthouse when the helper went to claim her witness’ allowance. Leung and Au went there to recover Au’s bail money.

Rosareal said her solicitors have told her that they will seek legal aid so they can pursue a civil claim against Leung and Au.
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