Mother made loan to school 'for girls' sake'
A mother has told a court she agreed to lend HK$200,000 to a school supervisor because she wanted her daughters to be able to pursue a higher standard of education.
Tam Chi-shuk said she handed over the money after Carman Liang Shuk-ching, 46, the supervisor of Pegasus Philip Wong Kin Hang Christian School, told her that her two daughters could be left without a school place if a merger with the Sear Rogers International School fell through. Liang denies two counts of fraud involving HK$450,000.
Tam, a massage therapist, said she and other parents went to a meeting at Sear Rogers in May 2007, when Liang told them that Pegasus, a Direct Subsidy Scheme school offering primary and junior secondary classes in Kwun Tong, would need a HK$200,000 loan from each family for the merger to proceed.
'Liang said Sear Rogers needed to redeem the debentures [bought by students] when their students left. Mrs Pei [Chen Chi-kuen, Sear Rogers' principal,] refused to pay,' and Liang needed to find the money, Tam told the District Court.
After speaking to her husband, a member of the disciplined services, Tam agreed to lend the money: 'HK$200,000 was not a small sum for me ... but my main concern was the education of my daughters,' she said.
Asked by the defence why she had not pursued Liang for the return of the money until after May 2009, when the school attracted bad publicity due to the withdrawal of its sponsor, the Pegasus Social Service Christian Organisation, Tam said: 'It [the loan] had affected my emotions. I felt cheated. But Hong Kong education was in such a state. I felt I should seek better education for my daughters' sake.'
Tam said Liang had not acknowledged the loan in writing, even when asked to sign an IOU.
Tam did not know that the money had been deposited in the bank account of a company owned by Liang and the account of Liang and her husband.
Liang had promised Tam she would repay HK$10,000 per month after Tam pursued her, the court heard. Tam has not received any of the money back.
Tam's elder daughter was due to start Primary Six classes in September 2007, while her younger daughter was due to join Primary One. But the merger fell through a month later.
The older child left the Sear Rogers site in Tsuen Wan and spent several months taking classes at rented premises in a shopping mall. The children are now being educated on the mainland.
Meanwhile, Pei denied defence accusations that she had wanted to keep the merger talks secret because she did not want to be seen as profiting personally from the deal.
'You did not want to be regarded by others as 'selling your students,' defence counsel Francis Cheng said, a claim Pei denied.
The trial continues today before Deputy Judge Don So Man-lung.