Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong man, 81, who killed sick wife to end her misery to be released from remand as judge ‘tempers justice with mercy’

  • Wong Kok-man has been in custody since 2017 and gets two-year sentence which renders jail term served
  • Couple suffered a hard life, with son dying of suicide at 24
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 8:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 11:00pm

An 81-year-old man in Hong Kong who killed his chronically ill partner to end her suffering will be released after nearly two years in custody as the judge said on Tuesday she would “temper justice with mercy”.

Expressing sympathy, Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling sentenced Wong Kok-man – who was detained in 2017 – to a two-year jail term, securing his release in about one month’s time, based on the length of time he already spent in remand, and a further reduction owing to good behaviour.

Elderly man strangled sick partner to end her suffering, Hong Kong court hears

“This is indeed a tragic case,” Barnes said before handing down the jail term.

Wong, a retired bus repair worker, had suffered from a major depressive disorder and choked Lem Mae-kim, 76, his life partner of 30 years, by pressing a bamboo stick against her neck while she was sleeping in their Shau Kei Wan flat on June 6, 2017.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier.

The couple had a son who committed suicide at age 24, the court heard during the trial. Lem was ill and in pain, and had lost her vision, her sense of taste and interest in life in her final days, it was also revealed.

On Tuesday, Barnes noted their hardship and advanced ages. “For the wife, [it was] the pain and suffering and the indignity of relying on her husband on all aspects of daily life,” she said.

Lem and Wong were not legally married but she was his de facto wife, having lived together on a domestic basis.

Barnes expressed sympathy for Wong, saying he toiled to look after Lem and bore emotional anguish.

The judge said the man’s mental troubles eventually led him to believe that taking his partner’s life would be an act of mercy and a relief for both of them, as they were not in good health.

Barnes added: “I am of the view that the court should temper justice with mercy when considering the appropriate sentence.”

I am of the view that the court should temper justice with mercy when considering the appropriate sentence

The court also heard Wong was no longer affected by his mental condition and would therefore not pose a threat to society.

His 11 younger siblings showed up in court to lend their support, pledging they would take better care of the elderly man. Brother Wong Chi-keung said they would take him out for a meal after picking him up from Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre. “We will visit him more,” he vowed outside court.

The court heard Wong treated Lem as his second wife, after leaving his first.

They had a son together but the young man, who suffered from colon cancer, killed himself about a decade ago when Wong was 70.

Things continued to go downhill for the couple when Lem suffered a stroke in 2015, leaving her paralysed on the right-hand side of her body. She also had rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism.

The court earlier heard that in 2017, Wong put the plan he had contemplated many times into action following Lem’s constant health complaints.

He had been described by his neighbours as a “caring husband”.

Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who visited Wong three times, recalled him saying that “these social problems are a path the poor have to take”.

Cheung slammed the government for insufficient planning, resulting in a severe lack of public support services for the elderly.

As of November 2018, there were a total of 12,171 applicants on the waiting list for various types of subsidised community care services for the elderly. The average waiting time for such services is between 12 and 17 months.