The decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) not to press charges against a rehabilitation center director for sexual assault on a handicapped resident has created a firestorm of controversy.
Media reports say Cheung Kin-wah, director of Bridge of Rehabilitation Co., a private nursing home for mentally disabled teens, had unlawful sex with a 21-year-old ward in 2014. He was arrested by the police.
However, despite such smoking gun evidence as tissue paper with Cheung’s semen and DNA material from the victim in a trash can in his office, the DOJ dropped the charges on the grounds that the victim is mentally unfit to testify.
On Friday, Cheung’s application for legal costs was rejected by a District Court judge, who said it was just sheer luck he was able to get away.
It wasn’t the first time Cheung had been lucky.
In 2002, he was tried for indecent assault on two mentally disabled female residents.
However, he was found not guilty on the grounds that the testimonies of the two victims were inconsistent.
The fact that a repeated sex offender was able to escape criminal charges repeatedly is not only outrageous but also mind-boggling.
No wonder a good number of social workers are demanding the DOJ explain to the public why it decided not to press charges against Cheung.
Lawmaker Roy Kwong, a registered social worker, has launched a petition to press the Social Workers Registration Board to conduct a disciplinary inquiry.
The Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union held a press conference yesterday in which it lambasted the DOJ for having failed to enforce justice and urged it to review the process.
The union also called on the Social Welfare Department to revoke the operating license of Bridge of Rehabilitation Co.
The DOJ’s argument that it had to drop the charges against Cheung because the victim is not competent to testify in court is absolutely absurd.
By the same logic, does that mean all murderers should be allowed to walk free because the victims are dead and cannot testify?
Some have drawn parallels between the incident and the 2011 Korean feature film Silenced.
Based on true events, the movie tells the story of a 2005 sexual abuse committed by the staff of a nursery in Gwangju against the disabled children under their care.
However, due to police negligence and bureaucratic cover-ups, all the major offenders escaped justice.
The movie sparked an enormous public response in South Korea. Under pressure, the Gwangju authorities reopened investigation into the case.
Despite the fact that Cheung Kin-wah no longer works with the company and that the High Court also issued an injunction against him shortly afterwards to prohibits him from entering the center, we believe that is not enough.
We strongly urge the DOJ to review the case and close loopholes in the existing law in order to better protect sex crime victims and bring all those responsible to justice.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 18
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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