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Hong Kong athlete says coach abused her as teen

Hong Kong hurdler Vera Lui Lai-yiu has said that she was sexually assaulted by her former coach when she was a junior secondary school student.

other sports Updated: Nov 30, 2017 17:05 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Vera Lui Lai-yiu,Hong Kong,Hurdling
Vera 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. (Twitter )

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

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 who abused her as a young teenager, calling him “coach Y”.

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

“The police chief will certainly follow up in earnest,” she said, urging other victims to come forward “as difficult 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 and has since shaken artistic, media and political circles globally.

Lui’s post included a photo of her holding a sign that read “#METOO” with her initials “LLY” and her eyes cropped out of the shot.

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She recalled 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,” Lui wrote. “I had never thought he would do despicable things to his students.”

Pui Ching Middle School, which Lui attended at the time, said Thursday that after the athlete told them three weeks ago of her intention to publicise the incident they had immediately stopped working with the accused coach.

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

Police told AFP they would actively look into the incident.

Going for gold

Lui is a promising athlete who took the gold medal in the 60-metre 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 Lawrence Nassar of abusing them.

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

Linda Wong, the organisation’s executive director, said she hoped Lui’s revelation would serve as a turning point in Hong Kong, where she said a victim-blaming culture was widespread.

“This is a new precedent -- for Hong Kong people, especially victims of sexual violence, to break the silence,” Wong told AFP.

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 incidents, and encouraged survivors 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.”

First Published: Nov 30, 2017 17:05 IST