A Hong Kong woman has been jailed for six years for beating and starving her Indonesian maid and keeping her prisoner.

Notes from the field - Al Jazeera's Rob McBride and Lamy Li

This was not only Erwiana’s day in court. This was also for her friends and supporters.  

Mainly from Indonesia and Philippines, they filled the public gallery and sat on the floor, sharing the cramped space with a throng of international journalists.

When the sentence was announced there was no cheering, no shouts. Instead, a respectful silence prevailed. There was a feeling that on this day, in a city which so often treats them as not deserving, justice had been achieved.

What is more, District Judge Amanda Woodcock final remarks identified that abuse cases like Erwiana’s might be avoided in the future with greater legislative protection - giving further hope to Hong Kong's migrant workers. 

Erwiana’s day in court might be the catalyst for much greater change.

Law Wan-tung - who had faced a maximum sentence of seven years - "showed no compassion" to Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and other domestic staff, said judge Amanda Woodcock in handing down the sentence on Friday.

During her trial, the District Court heard that Law punched Sulistyaningsih in the mouth, fracturing some teeth; jammed a metal vacuum cleaner tube in her mouth, cutting her lip; and hit her on the back with a feather duster when she was sleeping.

Law also forced Sulistyaningsih to stand naked in the bathroom during winter while she splashed water on and pointed a fan at her.

Sulistyaningsih, who worked for Law for about eight months starting in June 2013, also was not allowed any days off and was not paid her salary.

Al Jazeera's Rob McBride, reporting from outside the court in Hong Kong, said that migrant worker abuse was common in the city.

"Many rights groups say that on a daily basis, thousands of migrant workers in Hong Kong ... they will face verbal abuse and sometimes violence," McBride said.

There are about 330,000 foreign domestic helpers working in Hong Kong, almost all female and most from the Philippines or Indonesia, earning a minimum wage of about $500 a month.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies