HK investigates new child abuse claims


Hong Kong police have said they are investigating new allegations of child sex abuse involving Catholic priests.

Three more cases have been reported since police set up a telephone hotline on 6 May.

It followed allegations that as many as six priests in Hong Kong abused children in cases going back several decades.

One priest was detained last week for questioning.

Superintendent Shirley Chu told reporters the three new cases allegedly took place in the 1960s and 1970s and involved boys studying at secondary schools.

The allegations come as the Roman Catholic Church worldwide grapples with accusations that it covered up abuse by priests. The biggest scandal broke in the United States where cases of abuse have come to light in at least 17 dioceses.

Pope John Paul II has said there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.

Public anger

Since the Hong Kong allegations broke, Church officials there have referred serious cases to the police, saying they are adopting a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual abuse of children.

However the BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Hong Kong says the Church has been criticised for not publicly acknowledging cases of paedophilia much sooner.

The Church's admission earlier this month that some priests were under suspicion in Hong Kong came only after allegations appeared in the South China Morning Post - the Chinese territory's English-language daily.

The priest who was questioned last week, Michael Lau, was arrested on 4 May but was released the next day on bail. No charges have been filed yet.

The priest was defrocked after the Church found in an internal investigation that he had sexually molested a 15-year-old boy twice in 1994, but Church officials did not report the case to police.

The Church had said earlier that one of the cases took place in another country before the priest was transferred to Hong Kong and that at least two of the other accused priests have moved away, one to Canada and one to Australia.

There are about a quarter of a million Catholics in Hong Kong and the Church runs more than 300 schools and nurseries. About 300 priests work in the former British colony.

adam on Wednesday 15 May 2002 - 04:15:00