Hong Kong girl's death fall raises some serious concerns

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 April, 2015, 1:05am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 April, 2015, 9:05am

Many questions are still being asked a week after a 15-year-old girl fell to her death from a luxury apartment in Repulse Bay. That the community is shocked by the tragedy is unsurprising, given the circumstances and the broader issues exposed during the course of investigation. While there are legitimate questions to answer and lessons to learn, they are matters for the court and the government to consider.

The 53-year-old Filipino mother, formerly a domestic helper, was said to have overstayed her visa for nearly two decades without being noticed by the authorities. She was released on bail last week, after entering no plea in Eastern Court on one charge each of overstaying and ill treatment of a child. The 58-year-old father, a senior British insurance executive, was released on police bail without being charged.

Suicide involves complex factors. It remains unclear what prompted the teenager to take her life by jumping from her 19th-floor flat in the early hours of last Tuesday. The case is further compounded by a string of unusual revelations. The unmarried couple had two daughters born here but had never registered their births nor sent them to school. The details only came to light after police looked into the girl's death.

Failure to register births and provide proper schooling for children are punishable offences in Hong Kong. Pressure is growing on the government to explain why the unregistered births had not been pursued over the years. The Immigration Department currently sends letters reminding new parents to apply for birth certificates. But there appears to be no follow-up action, even if births are not registered. Officials should review the existing process in light of this case.

The intense public scrutiny over the past week may spur a sense of urgency to improve the relevant mechanisms. That said, curiosity and speculation do little to help those in grief. If there is legal responsibility to pursue, it should be determined by the court.