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Employer fined $3k for assault on helper, gets blacklisted

29 January 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao
Eastern Court

A Chinese housewife got away on Jan 16 with just a $3,000 fine for physically assaulting her Filipina domestic worker, but she and her husband can no longer hire a maid from the Philippines.

Zhang Qi, 39, who was originally from mainland China, pleaded guilty to common assault on G. Rimas, 42, before Eastern Court Magistrate Jacky Ip, who proceeded to convict her of the offense.

Rimas expressed disappointment over the sentence, saying it was too light for the wrong done to her. She immediately proceeded to the Consulate with Edwina Antonio of the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge to have Zhang and her husband Simon J. Eckersley blacklisted so they can no longer hire Filipino helpers.

In addition, Antonio said they will look into appealing Zhang’s sentence, and filing a separate civil claim for damages against her.

During sentencing, magistrate Ip chided Zhang for her “serious crime”, saying Hong Kong courts protect domestic helpers who had left their families to come here and work.

“No matter the issue, there’s no reason for you to use violence against the domestic helper. Hong Kong is a civilized society and does not tolerate any violence against a domestic helper,” Ip said.
“It has an impact that embarrasses Hong Kong,” he said.

Rimas was visibly relieved after the sentencing. She immediately called her farmer husband to tell the news. The couple has three children aged 19-24, and a one-year-old grandson.

About half an hour earlier, she burst out crying when she saw Zhang arrive for the trial with her private lawyers.

But she was consoled and massaged by Antonio and a fellow client at the shelter who accompanied her to court.

In mitigation, the defense counsel described Zhang as a former mainland businesswoman who came to Hong Kong with her husband to ‘take motherhood seriously” raising her three-year-old son and six-year-old daughter.

The lawyer said his client “is very embarrassed to be here today” because of the case and had been seeing a clinical psychologist regularly since the incident.

Seeking the most lenient sentence, he said Zhang had a bad day on Apr 18 because one of her three maids ran away at 2pm and the victim wanted to follow suit in the evening.

The court was told that the incident started when Zhang asked to see Rimas’ passport but was told she did not have the travel document because it was with somebody else in Wanchai.

Rimas allegedly tried to leave through the backdoor of the Repulse Bay home at around 6pm but Zhang prevented her.

When the maid reached the lift, Zhang grabbed her right arm and tried to drag her out. They struggled until the lift opened in the car park lobby and the Filipina called for help from the guards. He said it was during the struggle that she sustained injuries.

Court records show Rimas had a small laceration over her left eyebrow, small red scratch marks on her right wrist, a bruise on the third knuckle of her left hand, and a red mark on her left hand.

The helper told The SUN she started working for Zhang and her family on Dec 23, 2015. She said Zhang’s first assaulted her on Apr 4, 2016, when she pushed her forcefully from the dining room to the maid’s room while verbally abusing her.

On Apr 18, after a maid named Jailine fled, Zhang vented her ire on Rimas “because she (Zhang) knew I encouraged her to escape from the maltreatment we were suffering”.

“I was overcome by fear that she’d hurt me again so I also decided to flee,” she said.

Before the hearing, the prosecution reportedly told the maid that Zhang was willing to give her $5,000 in compensation, “maybe more”. The defendant would plead guilty, but would seek a bindover – a promise not to reoffend within a specified period with a certain sum for surety.

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