Sex harassment claims denied

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am


A former Chinese University administrator told an inquest yesterday that he did not touch a female colleague improperly. The woman was found dead in a hotel room in 2010.

Jacob Leung Siu-kwong insisted that he had had only a professional relationship with the woman, Wong Yin-wan, who was 47 when she died in October 2010.

'I did not sexually harass her,' he told the Coroner's Court.

Leung, a married father of two, was testifying yesterday at an inquest into the death of Wong, his former subordinate at the secretariat. Her body was found in a Sha Tin hotel room next to a bottle of antidepressants.

The inquest heard earlier that Wong had told a former head of the university's committee against sexual harassment that Leung had once touched her in a cinema, and that he had tried to stroke her back when they worked late together.

However, Wong refused to file a complaint because she felt indebted to Leung for helping her career.

Leung said that in 2007, when Wong was due to move to the vice-chancellor's office, she had invited him to lunch because she wanted to thank him for his years of support. At lunch, she invited him to see a movie that same afternoon. He agreed to go to the lunch and the movie, although he had seen the film with his wife.

When lawyer Jonathan Man Ho-ching, for Wong's family, cross-examined him, Leung denied he touched or kissed Wong in the cinema. 'I would not do such things in a cinema,' he said. 'It's a public place.'

He said they might have touched because the seats were closely spaced, but that he did not notice because they were watching a movie.

Leung said he gave colleagues gifts, like sweets and ornaments, to show his appreciation for their work. He gave Wong about six presents over 10 years, including wallets and handbags, he said under questioning by coroner's officer Jonathan Man Tak-ho. Leung said he did not give gifts on Valentine's Day 'to avoid sending the wrong message'.

After giving presents to Wong, he did not ask her whether she liked them, he said. 'It's not as if I was a guy giving a gift to a girlfriend.'

Leung said he retired last year, although his contract had not expired, at the suggestion of vice-chancellor Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu. He denied he left because of the harassment allegation.

Earlier, a psychiatrist told the inquest that Wong had suffered sexual harassment by a relative between 1990 and 1999.

Wong, who had been an assistant secretary in the university's secretariat, was transferred in 2007 to the vice-chancellor's office. Months before her death in 2010, she was transferred to the university's Institute of Global Economics and Finance.

Wong died after taking more than 50 times the clinical limit of the antidepressant amitriptyline, a pathologist told the inquest earlier.

Leung was ruled temporarily mentally unfit to give evidence in April, and the case was adjourned to yesterday. Leung said he had been angry after seeing reports of many witnesses making unfair statements that could damage his reputation, while he was under medication, but that he had recovered.

The inquest continues before Coroner Wong Wai-kuen.