Child suicide and other urban ills figured prominently in submissions to this year's RTHK/South China Morning Post short story competition. The issues surprised the judges who had thought the theme, 'A New Direction', might have steered writers towards politics. At the prize ceremony yesterday, Post Editor Jonathan Fenby and the head of RTHK Radio Three, Martin Clarke, praised the quality of the 200 entries. Office manager Kenneth Chu Hin-keung, 37, won first prize in the senior section with a story about a young girl abandoned by her mother, bullied at school, but who, about to commit suicide, discovers a letter from her mother which averts a tragic end. Mr Chu said his story drew a little from his childhood experience of growing up in a broken home, but the overall message was of hope. Runner-up Peter Stambler told a story through the eyes of a Vietnamese girl born at Whitehead detention centre and whose 'grey' life fills with colour when her father gets refugee status and they move to Britain. Third prize went to Debyani Chakravarty. In the junior category, first prize went to 15-year-old Jessica Ng Sheen-fai for her story about a river which changes course because of a dam, prompting a village to uproot to a new location. Second and third place prizes went to 16-year-old Andrew Lau Sei-wei, who is at school in England, and Victoria Cheng Xiang, 16, who is contemplating a career in journalism. Mr Fenby and Mr Clarke thanked the competition sponsors S. T. Dupont and Canadian Airlines who provided the prizes. The first-prize stories will be published in the South China Morning Post on December 6.