Cheung Kin-Wah defending himself ©HKET

Care home. Sexual assault. Mental disability.

These are the key words of the recent scandal regarding the care home Bridge of Rehabilitation(康橋之家). The ex-dean of the care home, Cheung Kin-wah, was accused of sexually assaulting a female resident with mental disability, whose intellectual age is only 8 years old. Cheung also faced similar charges 10 years ago.

Although the scandal raised wide-range anger, the accuse was cancelled in May 2016, for the sake of the mental condition of the victim. Review the cases 10 years ago, the judge then also dismissed the lawsuit, because the victims were viewed as unable to make correct testimony due to their illness.

The judgement displays a typical prejudice towards mentally disabled population, that they cannot testify in the court.

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It is true that people with intellectual impairment are usually unable to speak clearly, and often have flawed memories, but that does not mean their emotions and feelings are fake. That does not mean they don’t feel pain. That does not mean they cannot tell which is good and which is evil.

Every human being has the problem of biased memory, and possibility of traumatic stress disorder. One of the reasons why victims’ testimony matters for judgement, is that it reflects, to the utmost extent, and in most of the case,  how the victims are harmed in a crime. If the expression of pain are not recognized, then how can the victim be truly compensated?

The reluctant judgement raised great controversy in Hong Kong, especially among various social groups. 

On Oct 23, more than 2000 people from different local social groups participated in a mass protest, appealing for the attention to risks in social service.

A week later, the Non-government organization “Slut Parade” held another protest against sexual harassment.

Protesters in Slut Parade ©Apple Daily

The care home scandal not only drew attention to sexual crimes targeting mentally disabled people, but also uncovered much potential risks and shortcomings of social welfare service in Hong Kong.

Apart from sexual abuse, residents in Bridge of Rehabilitation could not even receive proper care. Some of them were forced to do housework. In the first half of 2016, there were 6 residents passing away unnaturally.

On Oct 20, the Social Welfare Department of Hong Kong (SDW) announced a decision to revoke the provisional license of the care home Bridge of Rehabilitation. However, there is still a long way to go, before we can see a Hong Kong with well-established social service regulation system.