Sexual harassment and assault

Hong Kong sports authorities urged to create policies against sexual abuse by end of the year in wake of Vera Lui coach arrest

Sports Federation and Olympic Committee says it will provide additional resources to help set up and implement policies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 8:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 January, 2018, 10:29pm

Hong Kong’s sports authority will push its members to set up guidelines or policies tackling sexual harassment and abuse by the end of the year, after claiming that the current situation is far from ideal.

The Sports Federation and Olympic Committee (SFOC) revealed the move a day after police arrested the former coach of champion Hong Kong hurdler Vera Lui Lai-yiu, who claimed on her Facebook page in November that she was sexually assaulted by the coach 10 years ago. The post became part of the global online “#MeToo” movement against sexual abuse.

The movement was started by activist Tarana Burke more than 10 years ago and became an online rallying cry in October following allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

There are 79 national sports associations under the SFOC of Hong Kong but only about 10 of them have guidelines tackling sexual abuse or harassment.

“We are highly concerned about [sexual harassment and abuse] in the sports community and will urge the NSAs to develop such guidelines and policies as soon as possible,” said Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, honorary secretary of the SFOC. “It takes time to complete the process as we are talking about a big number of NSAs but we have to thank the recent incident of hurdler Lui Lai-yiu, which has raised the awareness and concern of such an issue and hopefully it can help improve the situation which is not very healthy.”

Wong said they would help identify additional resources if requested by sports bodies to cope with the issue. He said developing policies would not cost much, but additional financial resources may be needed for their implementation.

‘Brave’ Vera Lui Lai-yiu praised by Hong Kong sports official for telling world about sexual assault

“They may need resources to employ additional staff but can appoint some voluntary members to handle the situation. But they must start the first step in order to get the job done as we will have two more workshops of this kind in March to help,” he said.

On Tuesday, over 200 NSA representatives and staff members attended a seminar at Olympic House jointly organised by the SFOC and Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) on eliminating discrimination and sexual harassment in the sports sector. There was a similar seminar in 2015.

Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, chairperson of the EOC, was also disappointed with the progress.

“We are disappointed to see many NSAs that have not produced such guidelines and policies,” he said. “The EOC is willing to offer assistance as we have some on hand materials to help develop these policies and they can be provided to NSAs.”

Chan, however, said sexual harassment in sports is not a serious problem in Hong Kong as, while the commission had received 233 complaints regarding sexual harassment over the past three years, only a few cases were concerned with sports.

Wong, who is also the president of the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, said they did deal with several cases of sexual harassment in past years and had sanctioned coaches who were found guilty. “We adopt zero tolerance on such issues as it is pivotal to provide a safe environment to our athletes,” he said.

Dennis Chau Wai-keung, executive director of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association, said they would speed up the process of developing such policies after attending the seminar.

“We will discuss the matter in our council and formulate relevant policies as soon as possible including screening any sexual criminal record of the coaches,” he said.

Hong Kong hurdler Vera Lui’s claim that a coach sexually assaulted her when she was 13 sparks outcry, police probe

Rower Carmen Lee Ka-man, who won two silver medals at the 2014 Asian Games and attended the seminar as an athlete representative, appealed for such a move by all the sports bodies.

“I would like to urge all sports organisations to formulate a mechanism and guidelines for handling and preventing discrimination and sexual harassment, and to educate all parties about the problem as this can help create a respectful and safe environment for athletes, coaches and other supporting personnel,” she said.