A 77-year-old Hong Kong coach accused of sexually assaulting a teenage athlete during a massage eight years ago was acquitted on Friday in what was the first #MeToo case brought to courts in Hong Kong.

Principal Magistrate Ernest Lin Kam-hung said at the Fanling Magistrates’ Courts that there was reasonable doubt in the athlete’s evidence against the coach, identified only by his initials W.H.

But Lin said that it was brave for the athlete, now 23, to speak up publicly under great pressure. Lin also said that although the court can only rule on the basis of evidence, he hoped his ruling would not affect the #MeToo movement.

fanling magistrates court
Fanling Magistrates’ Court. Photo: GovHK.

W.H. told reporters outside the court that he was happy about the ruling: “Justice is justice. Thank you for your concerns.”

The charges alleged that W.H. indecently assaulted the athlete X on a day between September 1, 2009 and April 8, 2010. X was 14 to 15 at the time and W.H. was her coach.

X accused W.H. of forcibly pulling off her underwear to touch her private parts, while they were alone at his home for a massage.

But W.H. told the court that he suggested X remove her jeans to perform a better massage of her leg muscles which X agreed to do. He said he had never pulled off her underwear, and that X had been communicating to him throughout the hour-long session about where he could massage.

W.H. Fanling court
W.H. leaving the Fanling court after the ruling.

X had told the court that she was lifting her body up with her elbows when she lay on a bed for the massage. Magistrate Lin said W.H. could not have removed her underwear, as he believed that most of her bodyweight would have fallen on her buttocks.

Lin also questioned why X did not try to withdraw her body or block W.H. during the massage.

Lin added that X remained close with W.H. after the alleged incident, which was inconsistent with her account posted online.

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.