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Crime in Hong Kong

Jail likely for Hong Kong man guilty of abandoning special needs son in Singapore

The 48 year old pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday and will be sentenced on December 12, with judge telling him to be prepared for prison time

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 1:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 10:19pm

A Hong Kong man with financial woes who brought his deaf-mute and mentally disabled son to Singapore and abandoned him there in 2014 – believing he would be better cared for in the city state – admitted his guilt in court on Tuesday.

Construction worker Chan Chai-wai, 48, was remanded in jail after pleading guilty to one count of wilful abandonment of a child.

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Prosecutors said it had taken them three years to bring the case to a Hong Kong court as it was a complex matter that required legal help from the Singapore authorities.

Chan was formally charged last week on November 16.

The court heard that Chan had abandoned his son on July 21, 2014, with reluctance and felt remorseful for his actions.

But Kwun Tong Court magistrate Don So Man-lung stressed that this was a grave incident.

“Jailing is inevitable. Be prepared,” he said, before police officers took Chan away.

Chan will be sentenced on December 12.

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The magistrate asked for reports that could shed light on Chan’s mental state and background, as well as the impact of being left behind on the child, who is now 14 years old.

The court heard that Chan and the boy, then 11, left Hong Kong for Singapore on July 21, 2014, a day after he picked the boy up from his special needs boarding school in Aberdeen.

They entered the country at about 6.48pm that day and within an hour, were near the Merlion Park, where Chan then left his son.

The boy, referred to as “X” in court, was found wandering by himself that night on the Marina Promenade. Previous reports said Singapore police issued a photo of him the next day and asked for his family to come forward.

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The court also heard that Chan left Singapore on July 23, 2014, after tearing up X’s passport.

Singapore police subsequently sought help from the Hong Kong police, who arrested Chan two days later on July 25.

He told police officers upon his arrest that he faced a lot of stress in taking care of X. Believing that Singapore would be a better place for the boy, he left him there.

“I’m very remorseful,” he told officers at the time.

Hong Kong police are understood to have sought legal advice from the Department of Justice on whether the father could or should be tried in Hong Kong, as the “final action” of abandoning the child did not take place in the city.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said abandoning a child could be seen as a “continuous action”, with the abandonment an extension of the “continuous offence” that might have been initiated in Hong Kong. This provided grounds for Chan to be charged.

In court on Tuesday, prosecutor Eric Yung Tat-yeung said the case required the use of the Mutual Legal Assistance In Criminal Matters Ordinance to seek legal help from the Singaporean authorities, to get hold of information that officers gleaned from the boy, and a witness statement from a local taxi driver.

In mitigation, Chan’s lawyer highlighted the financial stress his client faced and his belief that being an “orderly society in general”, Singapore had a welfare system that would provide for his child. His foolish decision was fuelled by his lack of legal knowledge, the lawyer said.

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He added that Chan had suspected that his son was a victim of bullying in his boarding school in Aberdeen, after discovering injuries on him. He had raised this with the Social Welfare Department in Hong Kong, but the school maintained that X had hurt himself.

Chan, originally from the mainland, moved to Hong Kong in 1996. X is his child with his ex-wife and he remarried in 2008, his lawyer told the court.

Prosecutors said the boy was now in the care of the boarding school, under a care and protection order.