Calls for action after Hong Kong care home sexual assault claims
Social workers and concern groups demand better government supervision and better legal protection for the mentally disabled
Social workers and concern groups are demanding better government supervision of nursing homes after a former superintendent of a home for the mentally disabled could not be prosecuted for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman under his care because she was declared unfit to testify.
They also condemned the Department of Justice for dropping charges against Cheung Kin-wah, who had similarly escaped legal consequences when accused of molesting others under his care twice before over the past decade.
The scandal has prompted 80,000 Hongkongers to sign a petition demanding action, amid doubts about the government’s efforts to monitor care homes and its ability to protect the legal rights of the mentally disabled.
The case came to light when the District Court on Friday rejected an application by Cheung, co-founder of the Bridge of Rehabilitation Company, to claim legal costs after prosecutors dropped the charges against him.
Cheung was accused of sexually assaulting the then 21-year-old woman, who had a mental age of an eight-year-old and has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder ever since the alleged assault in 2014.
Judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi said it was “the luck of the defendant but a misfortune to the victim or society” that prosecutors had no choice but to drop the case, despite the strong evidence collected by police – six pieces of tissue paper that contained his semen and a mixture of bodily fluids from him and the victim.
Cheung was previously acquitted of two molestation cases in the early 2000s involving two mentally disabled residents under his care, as the courts found the victims’ testimonies to be contradictory.
The social welfare sector is up in arms over the latest case against Cheung being dropped despite the strong circumstantial evidence against him.
“It is the saddest thing to see the [Department of Justice] dropping the case – it means nothing has ever happened,” a representative of the Parents’ Association of Pre-School Handicapped Children said.
Democrat lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu, who initiated the petition, called for an evaluation of the Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance to ensure such homes did not cover up allegations of sexual abuse.
The Social Welfare Department has also come under fire for issuing yet another certificate of exemption for 18 months to Cheung’s nursing home for a proper licence last October, even after his latest sexual assault case in 2014.
Care centres which existed before the relevant legislation came into effect but are unable to comply fully with it could apply for such a certificate to buy time.
The Bridge of Rehabilitation centre yesterday claimed it had applied for an injunction to bar Cheung from entering the home after the 2014 assault case.
The Department of Justice said the decision to drop charges was made after a thorough consideration of the law, evidence and the victim’s medical reports.