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Crime in Hong Kong

Hong Kong mother jailed for 15 years for starving seven-year-old daughter in ‘grotesquely shocking’ child abuse case

Judge slammed Mandy Wong as a very calculative, callous and cold-hearted mother who played favourites with her four children, isolating her youngest daughter with “cruelty [that] knew no bounds”

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 1:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 11:26pm

A woman who neglected her seven-year-old daughter to the point of near death was jailed for 15 years and three months on Friday in what a Hong Kong judge described as “grotesquely shocking” abuse while urging stiffer sentences for crimes against children.

Mr Justice Kevin Zervos slammed Mandy Wong Wing-man, 42, as being a highly calculating, callous and cold-hearted mother who played favourites with her four children, isolating only her youngest daughter, Suki Ling Yun-lam, with “cruelty [that] knew no bounds”.

“There was deliberate, sadistic and systematic abuse of Yun-lam,” Zervos said while Wong kept her head low in the dock. “This was a case of extreme cruelty to a child over a protracted period.”

The girl’s father, Rocky Ling Yiu-chung, 52, was jailed for four years and six months for joining Wong’s efforts to tell a host of “well-rehearsed lies” carefully thought out to mislead investigators.

Judge slams woman convicted of neglecting ‘Cinderella’ daughter over lack of remorse

Wong was found guilty of one count of child neglect and two counts of perverting the course of justice on June 20. Ling was found guilty of one count of perverting the course of justice at the same trial.

Zervos’ final comments suggested Ling might face another inquiry, as he directed prosecutors to review the case to see whether he and others were involved in neglecting Suki.

The court previously heard that one of Wong’s teenage twin daughters told police she had beaten the younger girl with a cane. The Post understands the two girls and their brother are now cared for by Wong’s friend.

A court-issued care or protection order remains in force for all four children, with a Social Welfare Department social worker following up their care arrangements and welfare matters according to the court’s instructions. The department is considering whether to apply to the court for appointing the Director of Social Welfare as their legal guardian, a spokesman said.

Chief Inspector Wesly Tse said police had proceeded with the current three charges after receiving legal advice from the Department of Justice.

“Police had actually considered all areas already,” Tse explained. “But we will see if we need to take further action.”

A department spokesman said prosecutors had considered the twins’ age, the applicable laws and its Prosecution Code to conclude that “no prosecution was warranted”.

But he said they would study the judgment and the prosecutor’s case report to determine whether any follow up action was warranted

The judge on Friday called for stiffer sentences for offences against children, in particular the maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment for child neglect.

“This punishment does not fit the serious levels of this crime,” Zervos said.

There is no ceiling to the punishment for perverting the course of justice.

Wong was jailed for nine years and six months for neglect. With the penalties for her other offences, she will serve a total of 15 years and three months.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said: “I hope this sentence will help the public understand there’s a rather heavy price to pay.”

The minister urged the community to pay closer attention to suspected child abuse and offer help. Starting in February, social workers will be posted at kindergartens in a bid to detect abuse earlier and prevent future tragedies, he said.

The future for Yun-lam is grim, and what future there is for her will be under constant medical care
Mr Justice Kevin Zervos

The sentencing drew a full house in the High Court, prompting the judge to invite those standing in the aisle to fill the empty jury stand.

Among the crowd was the former jury forewoman, who with six fellow jurors last week unanimously found Wong guilty of the three charges.

Zervos said the case was a “grotesquely shocking case of child abuse”, with Suki suffering the most serious physical and psychological harm at the hands of her mother.

“The future for Yun-lam is grim, and what future there is for her will be under constant medical care,” he said.

“The life that she could have had has now been denied, and what life she will have will most certainly be in a vegetative state in which she will continue to suffer greatly.”

The girl is being cared for at Caritas Medical Centre.

The tragic case came to light on July 18, 2015, when Suki was carried to hospital in a state of cardiac arrest, with serious injuries covering her emaciated body that weighed under 15kg.

She was diagnosed with irreversible brain damage, profound intellectual disability, severe malnutrition, gangrenous wounds and significant wasting that left her capable only of breathing and moving her eyes. X-rays also revealed old bone fractures in her body.

It took investigators months to find out who was responsible for her condition as her parents had fed them with lies in an attempt to deflect a police probe.

Neglected 7-year-old child may not live past 20, Hong Kong court hears

During the trial, Wong and Ling both claimed the other party was Suki’s true carer, blaming each other for exerting pressure to cover up their crimes by lying that the child was mentally and physically disabled.

They also made up stories about how Suki would play with excrement and urine and would refuse solid foods because she was anorexic.

But kindergarten records showed that the girl was a bright seven-year-old who was doing well at school, with nothing physically or mentally wrong with her.

Her teachers, however, recalled seeing Suki limping and having bruises on her face and head. At the time, she told them she had hurt herself while climbing trees on the mainland, despite her never leaving Hong Kong during that period.

In Hong Kong, most child abuse victims suffer at hands of parents

The girl was subsequently withdrawn from school in April 2015 after teachers made further inquiries with her mother, who then claimed Suki would be brought back to the mainland, where she was born.

Instead, the child was locked up at home until she was taken to hospital “pale, pulseless and breathless”.

Suki’s latest medical report on Tuesday stated that the “majority of children with similar conditions cannot survive beyond [the] second decade of life”.

Zervos said: “It’s hard to imagine a case much worse than this one.”