The Social Workers Registration Board has decided to institute a disciplinary hearing against the former director of a home for people with disabilities over a sexual assault scandal.
The 54-year-old ex-director, Cheung Kin-wah, allegedly had non-consensual sexual intercourse with a woman with a moderate intellectual disability in 2014. The charge was dismissed in May after the woman was deemed unfit to testify.
When Cheung tried to recover his legal costs, the court rejected his request and said that Cheung might be lucky, but it was “a misfortune to the victim or society.” The prosecutor’s decision to dismiss the charge caused public outcry.
The Social Workers Registration Board, a statutory body that oversees the professional conduct of social workers, held an emergency meeting on Wednesday over the sexual assault allegation against Cheung.
The hearing will begin early next year at the earliest, after the board receives confirmation from the complainant and sets up a five-person hearing committee. Three social workers and two non-social workers will serve on the committee.
If the board decides that Cheung has committed a disciplinary offence, it has the power to permanently remove Cheung’s name from its list of registered social workers.
The board’s chair Lun Chi-wai said that Cheung will be required to attend the disciplinary hearing, and even if he refuses, the committee will proceed with the hearing and give a ruling.
Lun added that even though Cheung is no longer registered as a social worker, the board is entitled to hear the case because Cheung was registered at the time of the alleged offence.
The board was previously criticised for not handling the complaint over the last two years. Lun said the board had to wait for the conclusion of the lawsuit before stepping in. He added that the board only kept up to date with the trial through the media as the government has not officially informed the board of the case’s development.
Deaths of six residents
Cheung was also prosecuted in 2002 for allegedly molesting two mentally disabled residents under his watch, but he was acquitted after the court held that the victims’ testimonies were contradictory.
The care home formerly managed by Cheung, the Bridge of Rehabilitation, was embroiled in another scandal after media reports revealed that at least six residents died at the home over the last eight months.
The Social Welfare Department announced last Thursday that it is set to revoke the temporary licence of the care home. It is the first time a care home had its licence taken away. But social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said the decision came too late.
The government said it will help the 79 residents affected to look for new homes. Currently 37 residents have moved out, with 42 remaining at the troubled care home.
More than 75,000 people previously signed a petition urging the Social Workers Registration Board to institute a disciplinary hearing against Cheung.
Concern groups and pro-democracy politicians have also urged the government to review the law to increase the transparency of care home operations.
Established more than 20 years ago, the Bridge of Rehabilitation mainly served people with mental disabilities or people who formerly had mental illnesses.