Award-winning Indonesian writer, citizen journalist, and migrant domestic worker Yuli Riswati, who covered the protests in Hong Kong since June, was deported on 2 December 2019 for having an expired work visa.
Yuli has been working in Hong Kong as a domestic worker for 10 years. But she is also a photographer and writer who documents the situation for Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong. She was recognized by the Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants in 2018 for her work about the impact of sexual violence and trauma experienced by Indonesian migrant workers.
Since June, she spent her days off covering the weekly rallies in Hong Kong to inform her fellow Indonesian workers about the protest movement. She said her aim is to help migrant workers understand the protests instead of being misled by online disinformation.
Hong Kong-based civic groups believed that her arrest and deportation were politically motivated and they organized a solidarity protest for Yuli on 7 December:
Though Yuli Riswati was deported by Chinese authorities to indonesia, I am still touched when I see this tag #StandwithYuli. Today #Hongkongers are going to hold a protest for this brave Indonesian sister at center Edinburgh place, 3pm. pic.twitter.com/xQHHNpGaSx
— 真回安然 ☪️ Cui Haoxin (@ismaelan) December 7, 2019
Yuli was arrested by the immigration authorities at her workplace because of an expired work visa on 23 September, after news reports were made about her and her stance in support of Hong Kong people. She has a valid contract for two years which she signed early this year but forgot to renew her visa which expired in July. She said she forgot to do this because she had to renew her passport first.
According to the International Domestic Workers Federation, immigration authorities often allow those with expired visas to continue working as long as employers will guarantee the contract and explain the situation in writing. Yuli and her employer did this but she was still arrested.
Her petition was denied and she spent 28 days in a detention center where she was lured into withdrawing her appeal for visa extension:
I wrote that I withdraw my visa because I am being detained for too long and don’t know when I can go back. Again the officer said I cannot write that because the lawyer will give them troubles. In the end, against my will, I have to write I withdraw the visa, and I will go back to Indonesia to apply for a visa again.
Many groups inside and outside Hong Kong expressed support for Yuli. PEN Hong Kong believes Yuli was persecuted to discourage other non-permanent residents from being involved in the protests:
We condemn this action which may be intended to intimidate non-permanent residents and deter them from involvement in or documenting and commenting on political events in Hong Kong.
The group also questioned the haste in deporting Yuli. “We are shocked by the speed and apparent irregularities with which this took place, and will try to pursue this case.”
During a protest organized on 7 December, Yuli spoke by phone and shared her ordeal inside the immigration detention center.
She said over the phone during the rally today that she was strip-searched on her first day at the Castle Peak Bay immigration detention center and forced to remove her clothes in front of a male doctor on her second day (a serious affront to a Muslim like herself, she added).
— Elaine Yu (@yuenok) December 7, 2019
She thanked those who showed solidarity and supported her case:
a woman who was locked up because she tried to tell the story of a people who have done nothing but treat her people like second-class citizens — she thanked us
she thanked us and we are so undeserving of her thanks
— hk wuliff ??️? (@hkwuliff) December 7, 2019
Some of her photos were displayed at the rally site:
there’s a cool set of photographs taken by Yuli! #StandwithYuli pic.twitter.com/XR88ebQFoa
— hk wuliff ??️? (@hkwuliff) December 7, 2019
A ‘wall’ of support for Yuli:
Thanks everyone who showed up at the #standwithyuli rally today (& those who supported us but wasn’t free)! pic.twitter.com/9WX4n2Iguc
— ????????☝️ (@ginkgoesd328) December 7, 2019
A petition drafted by the Yuli Support Group has four demands addressed to the government:
Why had Yuli been subject to detention and deportation without being convicted by the court of law?
The Immigration must address and improve the horrible treatments in the detention centres.
The government must stop all oppression on the people in resistance.
The government must respect the freedom of participation in politics by foreign domestic workers, including the freedom of speech and political participation.
Nickolas Tang has an appeal to fellow Hong Kongers:
Yuli stood with Hongkongers’ fledgling struggle for liberation. It’s time for us to show our solidarity with her by fighting for a Hong Kong where all migrant workers are treated fairly and with dignity.
Below are some photos from the solidarity action for Yuli on 7 December