Protesters demand review of Hong Kong’s policy on care homes after revelations of abuse

March by people with special needs follows decision to drop sex assault charge against superintendent of one centre

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 9:55pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 12:49am

People with special needs, accompanied by relatives and friends and backed by concern groups, were out in force on Sunday, demanding an urgent review of policies regulating Hong Kong’s nursing homes after revelations of abuse at a care centre sparked widespread outrage.

The protest took place after “monster” Cheung Kin-wah, former superintendent of the Bridge of Rehabilitation Company, allegedly had unlawful sexual intercourse with a 21-year-old woman who has the mental age of an eight-year-old in 2014.

The Department of Justice eventually dropped the charge against the man because the victim was unfit to testify.

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“The government must have the determination to bring about reforms so no more people with mental disabilities or those with physical disabilities will face any more inhuman treatment,” Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu said after organising the march from Central to the Tamar government headquarters.

He said 2,000 people took part in the march, while police said 1,000 participated at its peak.

The case of the man called a “monster” by protesters highlighted, they said, the government’s perennial inaction in ensuring that nursing homes were taking proper care of people with special needs.

They were angry that Cheung – who faced molestation cases in the early 2000s involving two mentally disabled residents under his care – was able run the Bridge of Rehabilitation Company for more than a decade. They wanted the government to ensure that anyone who faced such accusations should not be allowed to run a nursing home.

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Protester Simon Chan, who took his special needs daughter to the march, said: “The Department of Justice dropped the charge against [Cheung] and it showed that the government was not aggressive enough to protect people with special needs. [Cheung] is obviously not a man you can trust, with all the other charges he had faced before.”

Other protesters demanded the government set up a special task force to look into how nursing homes could be better regulated. Family members of people with special needs should become task force members, they suggested.

At present, 251 nursing homes for the disabled had been issued with certificates of exemptions – temporary licences allowing them to operate while they strived to meet government requirements.

The arrangement follows the 2013 implementation of the Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance, which governs the licensing requirements of the homes. The government issued the exemptions so the homes would have time to meet the new requirements.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said before Sunday’s march that the 251 homes must meet the requirements within three years.

But the vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Joint Council of Parents of the Mentally Handicapped, Jane Law Chi-chun, said three years was “unreasonably long” because “the problems with nursing homes have been known for many years already”.

Meanwhile, Cheung pledged to beef up inspections of unscrupulous nursing homes and branded it “absolutely unacceptable” for them to employ “shadow employees” – staff registered with the government but who hardly or never worked.

He made the remarks after it was revealed that the Bridge of Rehabilitation Company employed such people.