A female student at Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on Thursday spoke out at a public forum on campus, removing her mask and revealing her name to accuse Hong Kong police officers of sexually molesting her during an arrest.
A petition supporting her gained over 8,000 signatures from university staff, alumni, and fellow students, while hundreds defied police warnings to march in her name on Friday.
The student, who revealed her name is Sonia Ng, said she was arrested during a demonstration at the Prince Edward MTR railroad station on August 31. That particular demonstration was noted for an extremely aggressive police response in which both protesters and bystanders complained of being indiscriminately beaten by police and hit with pepper spray.
Ng said she was taken to the police station in Kwai Chung before later being moved to a remote detention center called San Uk Ling, which has been accused of abusing detainees. She said she was molested at the police station by a male officer who groped her breast after she was made to disrobe in a dark room and also accused female officers of staring at her genitals while she used a toilet at the station.
Ng did not reveal all of the details during her dramatic statement at the university forum. She initially stood up to speak while wearing a mask, as many protesters do, and said she had made her allegations anonymously in the past, but then discarded her mask because she felt the time for anonymity was over.
“Do you know that when we get arrested, police will take away and switch off our phones, swear at us, force us to go wherever they like, enter dark rooms, remove our clothes?” Ng told the university forum.
“Do you know the body search room in San Uk Ling is all dark? Do you know I am not the only one who suffered sexual violence by the police? Other arrestees have suffered sexual assaults and torture by more than one officer, regardless of gender,” she charged.
Ng said she came from an abusive family and urged CUHK to stand up for the students who have become her extended family.
“I hope that when we have been beaten and sexually abused that you will first show your concern for us, rather than chastising us for breaking a piece of glass,” she told the university administrators.
“I am willing to be courageous and take off my mask. Would you be brave and support us, and condemn police violence towards all the arrested people, including Chinese University students?” she asked CUHK Vice-Chancellor Rocky Tuan, the host of the forum.
“I have said violence is wrong, including police violence,” Tuan replied.
This was not good enough for the student body, as Tuan found himself surrounded by students after he departed the auditorium who demanded to know why he was not taking a more forceful stance in support of Ng. Some of them got down on their knees to plead for his support, weeping when they thought he would not address their concerns:
CUHK students begged their Principal to stand with them and blame the violence of police. He rejected and left with security guard. They cried so bad and the Vice Principal comforted them. #CUHK is built for establishing a democratic country since 1845. #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/77MxYlSBhy
— Joy (@JoyFromHongKong) October 10, 2019
When Tuan tried to leave, the students blocked his car, prompting him to hold a one-hour closed-door session with the students. After emerging from this session, Tuan said he was moved by the encounter and promised the university would issue a formal condemnation of police violence and urge more students to come forward with their concerns.
A spontaneous march with hundreds of participants broke out on Friday afternoon, continuing even after police raised a yellow warning flag to indicate the assembly was illegal. Many of the marchers also wore masks in defiance of Hong Kong’s new anti-mask law.
The marchers were strongly critical of police abuses in many ways, including the allegations made by Sonia Ng. “We felt very bad for her the whole morning. We want to do whatever we can in support,” one of them said.
Police officials promised to launch a “high priority” investigation of Ng’s complaint, although they also claimed they were unable to get in touch with her. Ng said in a radio interview on Friday she started receiving harassing phone calls from the Chinese mainland after her personal information was made public on the Internet.