21 October 2016
The mother and brother of an autistic man who was wrongfully detained by the police speak to reporters to denounce the incident. Photos: SocRec, Apple Daily
The mother and brother of an autistic man who was wrongfully detained by the police speak to reporters to denounce the incident. Photos: SocRec, Apple Daily

Police face flak after arresting autistic man in murder probe

Hong Kong police have come under fire over the detention earlier this month of an intellectually disabled person in connection with a murder case.

A 30-year-old male suffering from autism and intellectual disability was held for 48 hours after being arrested on May 2 amid an investigation into the killing of an elderly man.

It was later determined that the autistic man was not at the scene of crime which took place in April.

Now, the police are facing questions over the arrest as well as the way they handled the autistic person at the station.

Critics allege that officers did not follow proper procedures as they took statements from the intellectually disabled man, Apple Daily reported. 

Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) chairman York Chow said the police should apologize and offer explanation if they have made mistakes.

The EOC will follow up on the case if needed, Chow was quoted as saying.

The police, on its part, said it has the responsibility to conduct in-depth investigations as it was dealing with a severe case of homicide.

Except for the time when they made the arrest on May 2 at Mei Lam Estate, the suspect was always accompanied by his family members, the police said.

An elder brother of the detained person said his brother was arrested at 5:15 pm on May 2, while his mother was notified of the arrest at 5:45 pm. His mother has made clear to the police that her younger son is a mentally incapacitated person.

The elder brother arrived at the police station at around 7 pm that day and was asked by police officers to sign up on a statement taken from his younger brother in the absence of any family members.

He stressed to the police that his younger brother would not have understood the content but a police officer said it was only a supplementary statement and that a video statement will be taken that night.

The elder brother also pointed out that there were discrepancies between the written and video statements, as the former was made up of clear and complete sentences, while the utterances of his younger brother in the video were disjointed and far from complete.

An elderly man was killed in a basketball court in Mei Lam Estate while he was walking his dog on April 13. The police reviewed 800 hours of CCTV footage and arrested a 30-year-old male who is intellectually disabled and autistic.

However, the suspect was later found that he was in a Tuen Mun nursing home when the Mei Lam incident took place.

Legislative councilor Fernando Cheung said the family of the autistic man was not asking for privileges, but only proper treatment.

Cheung called on the police to apologize, and also explain the procedures pertaining to cases where they have to handle intellectually disabled persons.

The incident shows the need to enhance the training for police officers to sensitize them to handling people with mental disabilities, the lawmaker added

Meanwhile, an online petition that calls on security chief Lai Tung-kwok and newly-appointed police chief Stephen Lo to apologize to the affected family has garnered around 1,700 signatures as of Sunday night.

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