The mother of a 15-year-old girl found dead at sea last September has denied psychiatrists’ accusations that she barred her daughter from receiving follow-up assessments after the teenager was diagnosed with a mental illness.
Chan Yin-lam’s mother, Ho Pui-yee, told the Coroner’s Court on Wednesday it was her daughter who refused to attend medical appointments after she was found to be suffering from oppositional defiant disorder – a condition marked by irritability and argumentative behaviour – in March of 2019.
The mother was refuting testimony given by three psychiatrists that Chan, whose body was found in the waters off Tseung Kwan O on September 22, did not undergo in-depth psychiatric examinations because her mother refused to let her attend.
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On Tuesday, the second day of an 11-day inquest, Ho said she had told psychiatrist Sarah Theresa Chung in August that her daughter had been hearing voices in her head, but the doctor believed Chan was simply rebellious.
In response, Chung declined to say whether she remembered such a conversation taking place, saying only that it had not been written down in her notes.
On Wednesday, Ho told Magistrate Ko Wai-hung that she had also declined to arrange further medical visits for Chan because she had believed Chung’s finding that her daughter’s mental episode was not serious.
“I had put my trust in the doctor’s professional judgment,” Ho said.
Ko did not follow up on that particular assertion, saying any discrepancies in the evidence would be analysed by the five jurors in their verdict.
The court heard in previous proceedings that Chan had occasional emotional outbursts during her time at the Tuen Mun Child and Juvenile Home, where she had been detained on six occasions between September 2017 and August 2019.
She was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital three times after becoming emotional at the juvenile facility, outbursts that reflected her aversion to detention more than a tendency towards suicide or self-harm, according to her social workers and doctors.
Hong Kong teen found dead off Tseung Kwan O suffered from mental disorder, was not suicidal: doctors
Psychiatrist Renee Au Yeung Wing-yin, who examined Chan at Tuen Mun Hospital in March last year, said Chan became emotional that time because she mistakenly believed her social workers had unreasonably extended her period of detention at the juvenile home. The girl later calmed down and reflected on her behaviour.
The doctor said she did not undertake a thorough assessment of Chan’s condition during her one-hour hospital visit, but noted she could not compel the girl to attend further check-ups against her family’s wishes.
Meanwhile, two others who had contact with Chan testified on Wednesday about her seemingly erratic behaviour before her death.
One of them was Chan’s pen pal, prisoner Ng Siu-kong, whom Chan described as her boyfriend, and with whom she had exchanged letters since February 2019.
The 22-year-old – who is serving time at Tong Fuk Correctional Institution over drug-related offences – said that while Chan appeared cheerful, she had repeatedly told him in writing how unhappy she was during her troubled childhood, and about her poor relationship with her peers.
Although the two did not talk much about last year’s anti-government protests, he said Chan told him that she sympathised with protesters who were beaten by the police.
He also said Chan had once spent the night outside the prison on August 12, 2019 after she was barred from visiting him outside office hours. When he asked her the next morning why she was so desperate to meet him, she did not answer.
Ng’s father, Ng Kam-hung, 54, was called to drive Chan home that night, but she jumped out of his vehicle after the two had dinner together and took a taxi back to the jail, the court was told.
Ng Kam-hung said he noticed Chan had acted strangely that night, volunteering to distribute anti-government fliers on the street for an unknown group of people, and pestering strangers sitting at the next table in the restaurant the two visited.
The two witnesses said Chan told them that she had taken “two bites of cannabis” on an unspecified date – August 11, according to the testimony of Chan’s social worker.
However, Ng Siu-kong said he believed Chan was not under the influence of drugs at the time. He added that Chan had never expressed a desire to die, and had instead worked hard to turn over a new leaf in spite of her past.
The inquest continues on Thursday.
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