Hong Kong Olympic Committee U-turns on punishing coaches for sex offences
Vice-president says body has no power to punish those involved in sexual misconduct
The Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong had no power to punish coaches involved in sexual misconduct, its vice-president said on Sunday, despite an earlier statement that it would impose “appropriate punishment” for offences against athletes.
Vivien Lau Chiang-chu also said the committee could not force local sports associations to draft sexual harassment policies.
Her remark contrasted with the committee’s statement issued three days ago, which condemned the sexual assault experienced by Hong Kong’s star hurdler, Vera Lui Lai-yiu, and said it would take appropriate action in cases involving athletes.
Lui said on Facebook last week that she was sexually assaulted by her former coach 10 years ago, raising questions about whether the sport industry has offered enough protection to athletes.
She was the most high-profile figure in Hong Kong to join the “Me Too” campaign since the hashtag movement developed the rallying cry online after allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein came to light in October.
“The Olympic committee [of Hong Kong] has no mechanism of punishment. We can only advise the local associations to establish their own,” Lau said on a television programme.
Lau explained that coaches were not registered under or employed by the committee, but belonged to different sports associations or the Sports Institute. The sports associations enjoyed autonomy in handling internal affairs, she said.
“It’s difficult for us to stipulate which mechanism they must employ,” Lau said.
“We can only strongly recommend they make policies and delegate someone to handle such complaints.”
She also admitted that it would be difficult to impose more stringent regulations on coaches’ behaviour and ethics through a general licensing system, since the city had not founded a coaches’ association.
“Though all coaches are required to attend courses before getting a registration, the registration focuses more on their professional skills,” Lau said.
In a 2015 survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission and the committee, 88 per cent of the 57 responding sports associations said they had no written sexual harassment policy. A total of 75 associations were surveyed.
The committee said on Friday that they had received a letter from the commission and were considering its request to survey the sport sector again.
Lau said the committee would deliver the toolkit and the guidelines for policy making to all the local sport associations again. She suggested updating the general guidelines for coaches with clearer definitions of sexual harassment and assault, with specific instructions such as that students and athletes should be informed about the potential physical contact required for teaching and training before coaches proceed.