Lawmakers have questioned how a man suspected of rape was able to kill himself at a police station.

The 48-year-old man surnamed Lam was being held at Sau Mau Ping police station, near his residence where he was arrested on Wednesday. It is suspected that he hanged himself.

Update: Lawmakers question police station security after suicide of man suspected of rape

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung and Democratic Party lawmaker James To, both lawyers, said they had questions over the incident as detention rooms in police stations are designed to prevent suspects from harming themselves.

The suspect.

Yeung said police would take away items from suspects that may cause a danger to them, including belts, shoelaces, or bras belonging to female suspects.

He said the rooms normally do not feature any beams along the ceiling, and are designed so officers can monitor detainees. Suspects would be under full surveillance, even when they use the bathroom.

“This incident is indeed suspicious under these circumstances. The police have a responsibility to explain the suicide incident clearly to the public, no matter whether he is a rape suspect or any suspect,” Yeung said.

James To, the vice-chairman of the legislature’s Panel on Security, said the police should have enough experience to understand that rape suspects may be emotionally unstable.

“The surveillance [for them] is usually tighter,” he said. “If a suspect can hang himself in a police station, there is surely a security loophole.”

“This is bizarre,” he added.

He said that the police should arrange crime investigation officers from another district to retain evidence from the Sau Mau Ping police station such as security footage, and take statements from other detainees.

Potential negligence 

RTHK cited sources as saying that the suspect used a computer cable to hang himself. The police are investigating the length and the source of the cable, and how the incident occurred.

Sources speaking to RTHK also said that the detention rooms lacked security cameras because of privacy issues, but they are watched by officers. Normally, suspects entering the rooms need to be searched, and it would be a case of negligence if suspects were able to slip items into the rooms. Disciplinary action may be taken if negligence was found.

Sau Mau Ping police station
Sau Mau Ping police station. File

A 22-year-old woman was robbed of her smartphone on a footbridge near the Kowloon Bay MTR station on Sunday morning. After she chased the perpetrator to the bottom of the bridge, he emerged from hiding, dragged her inside a fenced area and raped her.

The victim escaped around 5am. She also lost two bank cards and was forced to divulge her ATM PIN codes.

The incident received widespread attention as police launched a manhunt before the suspect was arrested on Wednesday morning. They were able to trace a water bottle the perpetrator left behind, and tracked the use of the bank card.

If you are experiencing negative feelings, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084. See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.