Slave husbands of Hong Kong: The men who marry into servitude
Shahid Sandhu's sense of loss and anxiety from his loveless marriage knows no bounds. But his is more than a bad connection.The latter is true. The problem is, once again, diversity. Where Western and East Asian men would flee, or possibly murder their families, these men stay. Hong Kong authorities are shocked at their behavior, but it doesn't qualify as slavery there.
From the time he left Pakistan to join his new wife overseas four years ago, she, her brothers and her parents have been controlling his every move.
They force him to work round the clock, seven days a week - as a bonded labourer at a construction site during the day and as an indentured servant at home on evenings and his day off. They beat him and verbally abuse him at any sign of exhaustion or dissent. They take all his money, refuse him food and have even threatened to kill him.
Sandhu knows what they are doing is wrong and illegal, but the endless abuse has broken him down. He battles severe depression and nightmares, too exhausted, afraid and ashamed to speak out.
Sandhu's situation sounds as if it's from a bygone era, but it is happening today, in one of the world's most advanced cities: Hong Kong.
Sandhu, who has a university degree in commerce, had a respectable job at a bank in Pakistan, but his salary was meagre and the prospect of a prosperous life in Hong Kong meant financial security for his parents. He married his bride in Pakistan, arriving in Hong Kong months later on a dependant visa.
The post-wedding bliss vanished immediately. Sandhu's in-laws and wife locked away his passport and identity papers for "safe keeping" - something that is against the law - then informed him that he would be working overtime at a construction site six days a week to earn money for his bride and her entire family. Every night, and on his one day off each week, he would do the domestic work. Whenever Sandhu complained, verbal and physical abuse kept him in his place.
"Immigration never recognises them as slaves," he said. "They insist they are able-bodied people and can decide on their own."