Hurdles champion Vera Lui Lai-yiu revealed on Thursday that she was sexually abused by a former coach ten years ago when the athlete had just entered into her teens.
In an open letter published on Facebook on her 23rd birthday, Lui accused her former coach of indecent assault, a claim that sent shockwaves through Hong Kong’s sporting community.
Along with the letter, Lui posted a photo of her holding a sign that read “#MeToo”, adding her voice to the recent global hashtag campaign of women coming forward about sex abuse.
Lui’s post prompted a flurry of chatter among sports fans as well as the general public, with people expressing shock over the news and offering messages of support to the champion hurdler.
Meanwhile, a lawmaker representing the sports sector, Ma Fung-kwok, revealed that he recently received a letter that accused another coach of assault, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In her post, Lui recalled that when she was 13 or 14, her former coach, whom she did not name, touched her genitals while giving her a massage.
“I was just a secondary school pupil. I trusted him as a respectable coach,” Lui wrote. “I never thought he would do anything despicable.”
She said she was inspired to speak out due to the example set by US gymnast and Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, who disclosed last month that she had been sexually abused by her team doctor.
“I have never heard of any cases of sexual assault or indecent assault in Hong Kong sport, but I believe I’m not alone in this field suffering abuse,” wrote Lui, who bagged the gold in the 60-meter women’s hurdles at the Asian Indoor Games in Turkmenistan in September this year.
“If you, unfortunately, have similar experiences with me, I hope you can muster the courage to seek help from those around you and speak out.”
Following Lui’s social media post, she received an outpouring of support from people across the city.
Her current coach, Tang Hon-sing, said: “She is very brave… Unveiling the matter can bring her relief. I support her fully.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, meanwhile, asked Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung to follow up on Lui case, RTHK reports.
“I am very sorry for what happened to Lui,” Lam was quoted as saying. “As chief executive, my government deals seriously with sexual assaults against children.”
She urged all sexual misconduct victims to seek help.
In response to Lui’s claim, the Secretary for Security, John Lee Ka-chiu, said Thursday that victims of abuse should file complaints with the police.
Police visited the Pui Ching Middle School, which Lui attended, on Thursday to try to get more information on the case.
The school said in a statement that Lui told them about the incident three weeks ago, and that they were “deeply saddened” by what happened to the young girl.
The coach in question had been suspended from training pupils after the hurdler told school authorities about her intention to publicize the matter.
According to HKEJ, Pui Ching deputy head Cheng King-leung praised Lui for her “great courage” and promised the school’s full cooperation if she decides to take legal action against the coach.
Hours after Lui’s revelation, Ma Fung-kwok, the lawmaker for the sports sector, said he received an anonymous letter a few weeks ago accusing another coach of sexual assault.
Yet, he stressed that one or two cases did not mean that sexual assault was a widespread issue.
“I don’t see a big institutional problem at this stage, but we shall not tolerate any sexual offences.”
Ma said he had contacted the relevant sports association, and that he can’t disclose more details at this stage.
The Jockey Club, meanwhile, has confirmed that it had received enquiries from the lawmaker.
The Club is reported to have fired a riding instructor in its Junior Equestrian Team after a probe revealed that the instructor had used “sexually explicit language in the course of his duties”.
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