Father of hoaxer 'not surprised'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 May, 2002, 12:00am

The elderly father of a convicted fraudster arrested for claiming he had found missing autistic boy Yu Man-hon said he was 'not surprised' at his son's actions.

Guangxi resident Zhang Tingzhen, 38, was still being detained by mainland public security officers last night for questioning on suspicion of fraud.

He faxed a fake picture of Man-hon to his mother, Yu Lai Wai-ling, claiming he had found the 17-year-old, who has been missing on the mainland for almost two years.

The South China Morning Post yesterday talked to Zhang's father, Zhang Ruichun, 72, in his Mengshan county home. He appeared calm when told his son was being investigated for fraud.

'I don't know what he has been doing,' Mr Zhang said. 'But I'm not surprised about that. He has got a previous record for crime.'

Mr Zhang said his son was released from jail in January after serving six years for theft and deception.

'He never mentioned anything to me about finding a boy and looking after him.'

Man-hon, 17, ran away from his mother at Yau Ma Tei MTR station in August 2000 and was wrongly sent over the border by immigration officials. His parents continue to search for him and regularly post notices in Guangdong in the hope he will be found.

The Security Bureau in Hong Kong said last night Zhang had confessed to Guangxi police that he obtained information on Man-hon from a parcel he picked up in the street containing a poster of the boy and newspaper accounts.

With the contact numbers from the reports, he telephoned Mrs Yu and faxed the fake picture to her on Wednesday claiming he had found her son wandering on his fruit farm about eight months ago.

Mrs Yu said yesterday that she wanted the mainland authorities to find out if Zhang had taken in a boy. 'I don't care if he apologises or not,' she said. 'I just want to know if there is any truth in any of what he said or whether it really was all just lies.'

She added: 'I have been disappointed many times by all these false hopes, but this one seemed so real. The man sounded very sincere and I saw in the picture a boy who looked so much like Man-hon.'