Hong Kong mother arrested for ill-treatment of children faced health and financial problems
Kindergarten shares backstory of two siblings who often missed school
A Hong Kong mother arrested on suspicion of child abuse said she could not cope with taking care of her two kids as she was struggling with her health and financial problems, it emerged on Friday.
The 31-year-old woman’s remarks were disclosed by a kindergarten in Mong Kok attended by her 4-year-old son. The boy – naked in their subdivided flat despite the cold weather when police visited – was found at home alongside his 8-year-old sister.
The boy’s school, Dominic Savio Kindergarten, said he had been absent from class for some time and that no one responded to its social worker, prompting a call to police.
Officers visited the family in Mong Kok on Thursday and saw the children in an unhygienic subdivided flat filled with faeces.
“Since the beginning of the school year, [the mother] has told our school and our social worker that she could not bring Chan to school due to her health and financial problems,” the school said in a statement on Friday, referring to the 4-year-old pupil.
“She said the children were going to school at different times but that she needed more time to rest.
“We suggested she ask other relatives to help send the children to school, but she said no friends or family members could help her and so they could only go to school intermittently.”
Once the school heard about the case, it provided help and referred the social worker to follow up, the statement said.
It also provided the family with uniforms, food and toys, as well as other household items.
On Thursday, the mother initially refused to open the door to the officers, who were seen carrying heavy equipment and preparing to force open the flat. But the woman ultimately let them in without incident.
Chief inspector Gisella Chan Yuk-man of Mong Kok district said there were no apparent wounds on the children, who seemed to be of normal weight.
The boy had been absent from his kindergarten class since early last month, while his sister, a Primary Three pupil, had missed class since early this month.
Police said both children were frequent absentees. There had not been any report of domestic violence involving the family, a spokesman said.
“The living condition was quite bad,” Chan said of the flat. “There was waste matter on the floor. The four-year-old boy was not wearing clothes, so we arrested the female tenant.”
She added it was unclear whether the waste matter was human. The family had a mongrel in the flat.
The mother, who is unemployed, according to a police source, was held for questioning at Mong Kok police station on Friday afternoon after receiving a medical examination in hospital.
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Police were still trying to ascertain whether the woman suffered from depression.
A police source said she was released on bail pending further investigation. Her two children were now being cared for in a public hospital.
The Post understood police had found the children’s father, who did not live with them. It was understood the woman and her husband had been separated for about two years.
“At this stage, the two children will not be handed over to their parents,” the source said. “A case conference will soon be convened to discuss their welfare.”
During the conference, police would discuss the children’s welfare with social workers, medical staff and representatives from the Social Welfare Department and their schools, the source added.
The department said the household had been followed by an NGO. The social workers involved in the case were to coordinate with medical workers and other related professionals.
Additional reporting by Danny Mok