HK hurdler accuses coach of sexual abuse

AFP
A top Hong Kong hurdler accused her former coach of sexually assaulting her when she was a schoolgirl, prompting the city's leader Carrie Lam to ask police to investigate.
AFP

A top Hong Kong hurdler yesterday accused her former coach of sexually assaulting her when she was a schoolgirl, prompting the city’s leader Carrie Lam to ask police to investigate.

Lui Lai-yiu is the first high-profile woman in socially conservative Hong Kong to tell of abuse as part of the #MeToo movement exposing sexual misconduct. 

In an open letter posted on Facebook on her 23rd birthday, Lui did not name the man she said abused her as a young teenager, calling him “coach Y.”

Lam, the city’s first female chief executive, told reporters she was “very upset” to learn of the alleged abuse.

“The police chief will certainly follow up in earnest,” she said, urging other victims to come forward “as difficult as this experience is” so that allegations could be investigated.

The #MeToo campaign spread rapidly in October after multiple accusations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Lui recalled in her post how she thought nothing of it when the coach offered her a massage at his home to relax her muscles, but that he then removed her clothes and molested her.

“In my mind he was a coach I respected,” she wrote. “I had never thought he would do despicable things to his students.”

Pui Ching Middle School, which Lui attended at the time, said yesterday that when the athlete told them of her intention to make the incident public they stopped working with the coach.

The Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association expressed “deep regret” over the alleged incident and said it took a zero tolerance approach to abuse.

Lui is a promising athlete who took the gold medal in the 60-meter women’s hurdles at the Asian Indoor Games in September.

She said she was inspired to speak out by American Olympic gold-winning gymnast McKayla Maroney, one of a number of women who accused former USA gymnastic team doctor Larry Nassar of abusing them.

The Hong Kong-based Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women urged the public to use the hashtag #MeTooHK in a bid to increase the movement’s resonance in the Chinese city.

Linda Wong, the organization’s executive director, said she hoped Lui’s revelation would serve as a turning point in Hong Kong, where a victim-blaming culture was widespread. “This is a new precedent for Hong Kong people, especially victims of sexual violence, to break the silence,” she said.

Lui said on Facebook that while she had not heard of other cases of sexual abuse in Hong Kong’s sporting world, she believed there must have been, and encouraged anyone affected to seek help.

“In Chinese culture, sex-related topics have always been seen as embarrassing, shameful or not to be publicly discussed,” she said. “To speak the truth is a form of liberation, to turn myself from victim to survivor.”

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