Hong Kong minister pledges stronger rules after assault claims against former nursing home head

Government seeks legal advice to compel licensees to declare their criminal records

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2016, 12:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2016, 10:58pm

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung yesterday said the government would seek legal advice over whether it can compel nursing home owners and licensees to declare their criminal records.

The minister’s comments came amid an outpouring of anger against Cheung Kin-wah, former superintendent of the Bridge of Rehabilitation Company, who was accused of sexually assaulting an adult woman with a mental disability.

“We will learn from this incident to find out which areas we can strengthen. It will be a holistic review,” the minister pledged.

“We will seek legal advice on whether the licensees and operators need to declare any criminal records.”

The Social Welfare Department can then decide if licence holders are fit to operate the homes, the minister added.

Cheung Kin-wah was accused of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman, with the mental age of an eight-year-old, in 2014. The victim has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder since the alleged assault. However, the Department of Justice was forced to drop the charges because the female victim was unfit to testify.

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Cheung was also acquitted in two molestation cases in the early 2000s involving two mentally disabled residents under his care. The courts acquitted the cases because they found the victims’ testimonies to be contradictory.

In a recorded interview broadcast by RTHK yesterday, the former nursing home head came out in his own defence, saying he was the victim, not the woman.

We will seek legal advice on whether the licensees and operators need to declare any criminal records
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung

Cheung claimed the semen that police found on tissues inside a rubbish bin in his office were from nocturnal emissions, which occurred often. He said medical reports also showed the woman was a virgin, meaning it was impossible for them to have had sex, as the prosecution had claimed.

Judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi said earlier 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.

Concern groups, including the Parents’ Association of Pre-School Handicapped Children, were outraged by the claims.

“That was really hard to believe,” spokeswoman Lee Lau Chu-lai said, adding it was time for society to think about what more could be done to protect people with mental disabilities.

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Chief executive of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service Chua Hoi-wai, said in the future, the Social Welfare Department should not issue licences to a nursing home if its head has committed sex offences.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the Department of Justice had explained why the charges against Cheung were dropped, however better supervision in “every area” was required.

Labour and Welfare minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the Social Welfare Department was also considering taking further legal action against Bridge of Rehabilitation Company for allegedly failing to comply with hygiene and management regulations.