Sexual harassment and assault

Hong Kong athlete wins battle to highlight #MeToo fight

  • Despite losing her sexual assault case against a former coach, she is to be commended for being the first to speak out in a city court in the wake of abuse claims worldwide
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 10:00pm

Hong Kong’s first #MeToo trial disappointed many of those who support the campaign against sexual harassment. The defendant, a 77-year-old coach, was found not guilty after a court ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict him of sexually assaulting a teenage athlete more than eight years ago. Even though she lost her case, she won the battle by arousing public awareness of an issue that is too often swept under the carpet of cultural conservatism in this part of the world.

It takes great courage for a victim of sexual abuse to expose their trauma after so many years, even more so in court. The athlete is therefore to be commended for being the first to speak out in the city after abuse claims in the US film industry last year triggered a similar outcry in sport, religion and elsewhere around the world. Further allegations have since emerged in Hong Kong.

Unlike on social media where discussions border on a public trial, a criminal trial involves a much higher threshold. The lack of witnesses and evidence in a case that goes back years makes a conviction even more difficult. The athlete’s accounts of the alleged incident were found to have discrepancies and could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt that her coach committed indecent assault during a body massage. But her story has no doubt raised awareness about abuse, an effort she made when she responded to the #MeToo campaign with a Facebook post on her 23rd birthday last year. She was praised by the magistrate for her “brave and selfless” act that would make society fairer in the long run.

Coach acquitted of sexually assaulting athlete during massage

It is true that very few sex predators have since been brought to justice. US comedian Bill Cosby was sent to prison for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004, and Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein is facing multiple charges of sexual misconduct. However, nearly two dozen cases are said to have been examined, with most leading nowhere.

But the campaign should not be seen as futile. Not only has it created the atmosphere for victims to speak out and seek closure and justice, it also serves as a warning to predators and, hopefully, this may bring a positive change to a long-standing problem.