Alleged harasser unfit to appear

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2012, 12:00am
 

The inquest into the death of a senior administrator at Chinese University was adjourned yesterday after the key witness, the man accused of sexually harassing her, was ruled mentally unfit to give evidence for now.

Earlier yesterday, the inquest heard that former University Secretary Jacob Leung Siu-kwong had denied harassing Wong Yin-wan when confronted by the vice-chancellor.

Leung has been in hospital since Thursday and a psychiatrist has said he is not in a fit mental state to give evidence. Coroner Wong Wai-kuen adjourned the hearing - which was scheduled to finish yesterday - to June 5 at the request of Leung's lawyer.

Wong died in a hotel room in Sha Tin on October 27, 2010, with a bottle of anti-depressants next to her.

The court heard from several witnesses that Wong alleged that Leung, her superior, had molested her as they watched a film after a farewell dinner in April 2007.

This was just days before Wong was transferred to the office of the vice-chancellor at the time, Professor Lawrence Lau Juen-yee.

Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, vice-chancellor since July 2010, said Leung had twice dismissed Wong's allegations, before and after Sung had met her family in February last year.

'Leung said he had a meal with Wong and it was she who invited him to the movie. I don't know whether Leung was telling the truth, but he said 'nothing happened' and he saw her home,'' Sung testified yesterday. 'I said: 'That's not what Wong said. She said you assaulted her and she could not accept it.''

Sung said Leung replied: 'That is absolutely not true.'

After meeting Wong's family, who had pressed the university to punish Leung and review the university's policy on sexual harassment, Sung again met Leung, who continued to deny the allegations.

'However, to protect the university's reputation, his own reputation and the deceased, he was willing to make an early departure,'' Sung said.

'Personally speaking, I believed something happened ... but there was no investigation,'' Sung said. 'Judging from his reaction, I believed he found himself somehow responsible. Otherwise he did not need to go if there was no threat of punishment against him.''

Sung did not consider launching an investigation into Wong's allegation when he was notified by then deputy vice-chancellor Kenneth Young in May or June 2010.

Sung said he had met Wong only briefly before she was transferred to the Institute of Global Economics and Finance a month after his appointment.

He said the transfer was made to 'simplify manpower', to shield Wong from meeting Leung since the secretary and Sung's office shared the same floor, and because Wong and Sung's personal secretary and new office director did not get along.

Sung denied that the sexual harassment allegations influenced Wong's transfer.

'That was not the case,' he said. 'I just wanted to protect her from running into Leung at work.''

Sung said he was not aware that Wong suffered from a depressive disorder or depression at the time.

Asked by the lawyer representing Wong's family whether the university should have acted in 2007, Sung replied that Wong had expressed a strong wish to keep the incident confidential and the university had no choice but to respect her wishes and privacy. 'I could not think of any better option,'' Sung answered.

Pathologist Poon Wai-ming said Wong died from the 'adverse effect of Amitriptyline'. Wong had taken more than 50 times the clinical limit of the anti-depressant medication.

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