An Indonesian migrant worker who wrote about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests has been deported over a visa issue.

Yuli Riswati, an award-winning writer and domestic worker in Hong Kong, was detained at the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC) on November 4 for failing to renew her visa. She boarded flight CX779 to Surabaya on Monday afternoon, according to a support group working on her case who said she was pressured to cancel her visa renewal.

In a farewell call to Fish Ip, the regional coordinator of International Domestic Workers Federation, Yuli said that an immigration officer “cheated” her and told her on Monday morning that the government had tried to call her lawyer, but in vain.

Yuli Riswati
Yuli Riswati speaking after she was awarded at the Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants. Photo: Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants.

Before leaving the CIC, she said she was told to write that she was satisfied with the arrangement to send her home: “I am surprised and I am actually extremely upset [by] the way that Immigration treated me and deported me. I declined to write such a fake statement,” she said.

She said the officer told her she would not be allowed to go back to Indonesia if she did not write the statement. Yuli said she simply wrote: “I know that I will go back to Indonesia.”

Yuli thanked the public for their support over recent days. “They treat me especially well today, as if they worry [about] something,” she said.

protest supporting Yuli Riswati
Protest supporting Yuli Riswati. Photo: Stand News.

“I feel very touched by your support action. I want to tell what had happened to me, and what situation is at the CIC,” she said. “Many friends who are still detained there at CIC are suffering – the conditions are inhumane and unjust. I hope people in Hong Kong can [show] concern about their situation. I hope they will suffer no more. Please help my friends at the CIC,” she added.

Yuli was arrested at her residence on September 23 for overstaying her work visa which expired on July 27, though the Immigration Department later decided not to present evidence against her in court, according to the Federation. She was then detained on the grounds that she had nowhere to stay – a claim denied by the support group and her employer.

Yuli had a valid two-year employment contract which started in January, and her employer had asked the department to extend Yuli’s visa as they will continue to hire her.

protest supporting Yuli Riswati
Protest supporting Yuli Riswati. Photo: Stand News.

Normally, the Immigration Department will allow visa renewals when the employer explains the situation, according to the Federation.

Yuli said she previously requested a copy of a statement she was forced to write in detention in order to withdraw her visa renewal – but the immigration officer rejected the request and claimed that the statement was already sent to the Wan Chai Immigration office.

‘Political suppression’ 

The support group protested outside Wan Chai’s Immigration Tower on Monday, saying that the treatment of Yuli amounted to political suppression. The group said the Immigration Department rejected a request for Yuli’s supporters to say farewell at the airport.

castle peak bay immigration centre
Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre. Photo: GovHK.

Having worked in Hong Kong for a decade, Yuli wrote as a citizen journalist for the Hong Kong-based Indonesian newspaper Suara, as well as online media outlet Migran Pos. Last year, she was selected as a finalist at the Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants in recognition of her reporting on sexual violence and trauma experienced by Indonesian migrant workers.

Yuli also reported on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests this year, according to the support group.

The group said they will follow up on Yuli’s case and the “inhuman situation” at the CIC.

“The Immigration Department of Hong Kong owes Yuli justice. We are upset and angry [over] what the Immigration Department did against her will… suppressing her freedom of speech and her right to help her Indonesian workers in Hong Kong,” it said.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.