Police in Hong Kong have said they would investigate a claim of sexual assault by officers on a Chinese University student after hundreds of her peers piled pressure on the school’s president to condemn the alleged incident.
The statement from the force came on Thursday night after Chinese University vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi met students who demanded more support for classmates arrested in Hong Kong’s protest crisis and better security after riot police entered the campus last weekend.
Tuan, surrounded by dozens of emotional students after the meeting ended, agreed to issue a statement next Friday.
Students and alumni had filled the 1,400-seat Sir Run Run Shaw Hall at the university’s Sha Tin campus for a dialogue session with Tuan.
Among those who spoke during the dialogue was Sonia Ng, who said she was arrested at Prince Edward MTR station on August 31 and later detained in San Uk Ling Holding Centre near the mainland border.
“Do you know the body search room in San Uk Ling is all dark? Do you know I am not the only one who was subjected to sexual violence?” she said.
She also challenged Tuan to issue a statement to condemn alleged sexual violence by police, removing her mask in front of the university head.
“I am willing to be courageous and take off my mask, would you also be brave and support us, and condemn police violence towards all the people arrested, including Chinese University students?” she said.
[Eng Sub] A victim from #SanUkLing has first spoken up for her and other arrestees' terrible experiences.
She as a stud from @CUHKofficial asking the Uni Vice-Chancellor if he knows the difficulties faced by the students.
— Watching You (@thetimeusedtobe) October 10, 2019
In a statement released shortly before midnight on Thursday, police said they were aware of a female student claiming she was sexually assaulted by officers when she was detained at San Uk Ling Holding Centre.
“Police accord high priority to such a serious allegation,” the force stated, adding that its Complaints Against Police Office had not received any case of sexual assault related to the facility.
“We will proactively contact the [woman] and appeal to her to provide concrete evidence so that we can launch a fair fact-finding investigation as soon as possible,” the statement added.
Ng clarified on a radio show on Friday morning that the incident of sexual assault she had described was at Kwai Chung Police Station instead of the holding centre. But she said she was told there were also sexual assaults at the centre.
She said during her stay at the station, a policeman had hit her breasts, and two female officers watched her while she was in the toilet.
Ng said on Friday that she was in fear after the release of the police statement.
“I felt that the police statement was threatening me,” she said. “They said they would contact me directly ... Does it mean that they can catch me again and [detain me] for another 48 hours?”
She added that she had received calls from mainland numbers on her phone since the police statement, and this had not happened before.
Tony Tse Wai-chuen, vice-chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council, asked people in need to approach the watchdog.
“We hope that those who were treated unfairly or sexually assaulted will make complaints to us. We will follow up,” Tse said on the same radio show on Friday, adding that so far the council had received two complaints related to the holding centre.
Separately, education minister Kevin Yeung Yung-hung said he felt upset after learning about the sexual assault claim by the student. He hoped counselling, which the university was said to offer, would be provided to her soon.
He also asked people with more knowledge on such claims to provide information to police.
At least 32 of the university’s students have been arrested during the ongoing protests, according to pro-vice-chancellor Dennis Ng Kee-pui. Ng said the university had met some of the arrested students and would provide them with the “necessary legal assistance”.
During the 3½-hour session, Tuan was repeatedly questioned about the support the university provided to students. His replies were often interrupted by angry students who chanted slogans, pointed laser beams, shouted profanities and sang protest songs.
Dozens of students surrounded Tuan for nearly an hour after the meeting ended at 9pm. The students demanded that Tuan issue a statement condemning police brutality. Some of them became emotional and burst into tears as they accused Tuan of continuously dodging questions.
“Why is it so hard [for Tuan] to condemn police brutality?,” a student said, weeping.
Tuan replied that he would issue a statement in a week and condemn what was seen as police’s sexual violence. He attempted to leave the venue but later returned for a two-hour closed-door meeting with students.
According to one participant of the private session, Tuan was told by some tearful students about being beaten with police batons and having their homes searched by officers, while many others said they “could not see a future”, as the president, who turned tearful, said he “really hoped to help students”.
Earlier in his opening speech for the dialogue, Tuan said the government should “do more work” to resolve the many deep-rooted problems in a divided society.
He said the government should conduct “independent inquiries on various aspects” to uncover the truth behind the months of protests. He also said he hoped members of the university would unite and “sail through these difficult times”.
“I understand that [students] are feeling emotions such as sadness, distress, fear, anger and also the feeling of powerlessness,” he said. “To be frank, I share these feelings, too.”
Tuan was repeatedly grilled over whether he would condemn “police brutality”. He was also questioned about his stance on the controversial anti-mask law that came into effect last Saturday.
The law was not applicable on university campuses, he said, without elaborating on whether he was for or against the legislation. He also reiterated his stance of “condemning all kinds of violence”, including police violence.
An alumni member appealed to students to stop using “insulting words towards principal Tuan”. A non-local student asked her fellow schoolmates in Mandarin to “respect other people’s views”. She also raised concerns about non-local students being “attacked” on campus because of their political views.
Other students spoke out against the incident on Sunday when riot police officers entered the university and searched five students who were putting up promotional material. No arrest was made.
In response, Tuan said the MTR Corporation had called for police because there were “acts of vandalism” at the station near the school.
He admitted that officers had entered the university, but said the school’s security officers oversaw the situation. He said he hoped similar events “would not happen again”.
Students said they were disappointed by Tuan’s response.
A 21-year-old student surnamed Tsang said he felt “frustrated” by Tuan’s comments, accusing the school official of evading many of the students’ questions. Tsang said Tuan “did not offer anything new” during the session, adding that he had hoped Tuan would promise more concrete actions for the arrested students.
Last Thursday, over 100 students stormed the university’s administration building, broke the building’s glass doors and sprayed graffiti on its walls as they demanded Tuan engage in an open dialogue with students.
Tuan, who later met the students at an open venue on campus, criticised students for their “disruptive behaviour”.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Two Hong Kong Baptist University security guards suspended over incident in which police arrested five students
- Hong Kong protest crisis extends to schools with student actions at Chinese University, Mong Kok secondary school and college attended by shooting victim
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