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Sexual harassment and assault

Sex abuse claims rock Hong Kong sport after champion hurdler reveals coach assaulted her

Lawmaker also reveals that he received a letter recently accusing another coach of assault

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 2:39pm

Champion hurdler Vera Lui Lai-yiu’s revelation that a coach sexually assaulted her when she was a girl shocked many in the sports industry, who said they had never before encountered such abuse.

Yet the lawmaker for the sports sector, Ma Fung-kwok, said he received an anonymous letter a few weeks ago accusing another coach of sexual assault.

There was an outpouring of support across the city after Lui published an open letter on Facebook on her 23rd birthday on Thursday and accused her former coach of abusing her 10 years ago.

Her current coach, Tang Hon-sing, said: “She is very brave. I know she has kept it in her heart for a real long time and it has affected her.

“Unveiling the matter can bring her relief. I support her fully,” Tang said, adding that Lui was now resting and had no training.

Tang has been coaching the athlete for more than two years and said Lui revealed the truth to him in a training session some days ago. The former Hong Kong 110m hurdle and 400m hurdle record holder said he had been in the sport business for 25 years but had never heard of such abuse before.

“Her story gave me heartache. I was asking myself why such an incident would happen. I hope this will remind coaches and everyone in the sport industry to respect athletes.”

Former professional swimmer Sherry Tsai Hui-wai was also shocked. “I never thought this could happen in Hong Kong,” she said.

‘Speaking up is my birthday present to myself,’ Hong Kong hurdler says of sex abuse revelation

Tsai praised Lui’s courage in coming forward and warned all coaches to follow their professional ethics. “Whether the coach has power over an athlete or not, he should behave himself.”

In the post, Lui recalled that when she was 13 or 14 her former coach touched her genitals at his home while giving her a massage.

She was unable to respond even when her underpants had been removed because she was so young and never thought someone so respectable could act so despicably.

Tsai, a coach for two school teams and one athletics team, said she would never massage a student when no one else was present.

“I will do it when the athlete’s parents or teammates are around. I will explain to everyone why the massage is needed and how it should be done,” Tsai said.

She was also concerned at what she said was a lack of education for children on how to protect themselves against sex offenders.

Hong Kong hurdler Vera Lui’s claim that a coach sexually assaulted her when she was 13 sparks outcry, police probe

“It has long been a subject of international attention but Hong Kong has failed to catch up,” she said.

High jump star Cecilia Yeung Man-wai shared Tsai’s worry about sex education being a taboo subject.

Yeung said while more education should be provided for children, adults should accept their responsibilities as the underage were vulnerable and often incapable of defending themselves.

Vivien Lau Chiang-chu, chairwoman of the Tenpin Bowling Congress, said sports circles were quaking because “it was so close to us”. But Lau said sexual harassment could take place in any sector of society.

The Jockey Club, which confirmed it had received enquires from lawmaker Ma, said it had fired a riding instructor in its Junior Equestrian Team on Friday after an investigation showed he had used “sexually explicit language in the course of his duties.”

Lawmaker Ma said the anonymous letter he received accused a named coach of sexual assault. He

had contacted the relevant sports association but could not disclose more details at this stage.

But Ma pointed out that one or two cases did not mean it was a widespread issue.

“I don’t see a big institutional problem at this stage, but we shall not tolerate any sexual offences.”

He said sports associations and athletic organisations should have clear guidelines and requirements for coaches.

“If it’s hard to draw a line between the athletes and the coaches, we can further discuss how to improve the guidelines,” Ma said.