University of Hong Kong professor ‘suicidal’ as he faces murder charge over wife’s death
Cheung Kie-chung, arrested on Tuesday, remanded in custody and placed under special supervision after first appearance in the dock
The university professor whose wife’s corpse was found in his office will be put on suicide watch in jail, a court heard on Thursday, as he made his first appearance in the dock to face a murder charge.
Associate professor Cheung Kie-chung, 53, a member of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council, did not enter a plea or apply for bail. Magistrate Li Chi-ho remanded him in custody until the next hearing, on November 22, given the seriousness of the charge.
Prosecutor Enid Chow York-lee applied for a “special watch by the Correctional Services Department, as the defendant claimed to feel suicidal”. Li granted it.
Cheung was charged with murdering Chan Wai-man at his home in Wei Lun Hall on Sassoon Road, Pok Fu Lam, on August 17. Cheung is the warden of the hall, and lived there with Chan, their daughter and their son.
Cheung reported his wife missing on August 20. She was last seen on August 17, at the building.
Cheung was arrested on Tuesday afternoon following a police raid on his office in the Haking Wong Building on HKU’s Pok Fu Lam Road campus, about a four-minute drive from Wei Lun Hall.
Investigators there uncovered a woman’s body in a suitcase stashed in a wooden box. The cause of death was still to be determined, pending a postmortem examination.
Cheung is believed to have exercised his right to remain silent during a day of questioning after his arrest.
His daughter has arranged for law firm Morley Chow Seto to represent Cheung, although his lawyers declined to comment when approached by the Post after Thursday’s hearing.
Dressed in a beige Gap hoodie and looking calm with his hands crossed, he listened to the charges at Eastern Court, and said he understood them.
Dr William Cheung Sing-wai, chairman of the HKU Academic Staff Association – of which the defendant is a vice-chairman – was at the hearing to support Cheung Ki-chung, along with other association committee members.
The associate professor’s arrest rocked the university community, particularly given his multiple terms as a member of HKU’s governing council.
William Cheung said he was very worried about his long-time colleague.
“From what I saw in court today, he just looked straight into the judge when hearing the charge, without even looking at members of audience,” he said, stressing that he had never heard of Cheung being suicidal.
“He’s always been so helpful to colleagues, many colleague just cannot believe what has happened.”
Addressing incoming students at Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony, HKU’s new vice chancellor Zhang Xiang referred to the incident – without naming it specifically – as a “tragedy”, but promised the university would offer support to students and staff.
Under university policy, Cheung could lose his teaching position if convicted.