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Hong Kong schools

Government called off search for truant Hong Kong schoolboy, 15, later found dead

Official admits Education Bureau could have done better in search for Leung Man-lai, whose body was found along with his mother’s in Tuen Mun flat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 12:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 2:08pm

City schools chiefs have admitted they could have done better after calling off the search for an absentee schoolboy who later turned up dead.

The Education Bureau gave up looking for 15-year-old Leung Man-lai five years ago. His decomposing body was found along with his mother’s in their Tuen Mun home earlier this month.

Legislators harshly criticised the bureau, saying its explanation for pulling the search – that it did not have the boy’s full address – was “inconceivable”.

On September 7, police and fire officers found the two bodies in a 13th-floor flat in King On House, Shan King Estate.

A security guard had called the officers after complaints about the smell.

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The mother, Yik Shun-mui, 48, had been looking after the boy after divorcing his father in 2009.

Police believed the pair had been dead for at least three weeks, and found nothing suspicious in their deaths.

On Thursday, Louise So Yuen-yi, principal education officer for school administration, told a special meeting of the Legislative Council’s welfare services panel that the bureau had looked for the boy and his parents for about a year from the middle of 2011, after he stopped turning up to school. But the lack of a complete address hampered them, she said.

After approaching all the blocks on the estate and speaking to security guards, they stopped the search. The bureau did not send an education order, which would have forced the parents to get the child into a school – or prove that they already had – or face legal action.

So said the bureau did not contact the Housing Department, which is landlord of the leased flats on the estate, to ask for the full address. She admitted her department could have dealt with the search better.

Panel member Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said the explanation was “inconceivable”.

“All pupils are required to give their addresses at the beginning of their studies at a school … I don’t know why the Education Bureau didn’t have this student’s address,” he said.

Another member, Kwok Wai-keung, said it would not have mattered if the bureau had had an address “from Saturn or Jupiter”, as they would not have checked it.

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So said the bureau had set a new procedure for handling absent students from public estates in 2013, under which it would go to the Housing Department for their addresses and pay them a visit.

There were 3,600 students absent for seven consecutive days or more in the 2015/2016 school year, including 1,700 under 15 years old, the bureau said.

Most of them returned to school later. No attendance orders have been issued in the past five years.