The lawyers for a woman who reported an alleged rape by a number of police officers have blasted the force as being grossly unprofessional for breaching her “privacy and dignity.”

Hong Kong’s police on Saturday confirmed that a woman filed a complaint to the force on October 22 alleging that she had been raped in the Tsuen Wan Police Station. The force said in a statement that the accusation was inconsistent with an initial investigation but it would continue to conduct a thorough probe into the matter.

Tsuen Wan police station
Tsuen Wan Police Station. Photo: Google Maps screenshot.

Representatives from Vidler & Co. Solicitors confirmed on Monday evening the woman – named only as “Ms X” – had filed a report to the police after the alleged gang rape and gave an extensive account of the incident to investigators. She subsequently terminated a pregnancy that arose from the incident and permitted the taking of a DNA sample from the aborted foetus to help in identifying at least one of her assailants, the lawyers said.

But the lawyers blasted the police for obtaining a search warrant to look at her medical records – including those pre-dating the alleged incident – from her private doctor’s clinic without her consent. The force also sought CCTV footage from the clinic.

“To seek to obtain a rape complainant’s private medical records without their knowledge and consent is a gross invasion of privacy. Such action was an outrageous abuse of police power,” the statement read.

The lawyers added Ms X “immediately” went to court to challenge the search warrant and, last Thursday morning, the issuing magistrate suspended the order and granted her an anonymity order. Any breach of the anonymity order may amount to contempt of court.

‘Publicly discredit’

Vidler & Co. Solicitors criticised the police as intentionally leaking selected details of Ms X’s investigation to the media via the Police Public Relations Bureau and unidentified “police sources,” as well as making “adverse” public comments on the case. They said the force had chosen to do so in order to discredit their client’s accusation and dimish any prospect of a successful prosecution.

“She has made no public comment about the case and has not sought publicity in any way,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, the police investigating Ms X’s case appear to have systematically worked to discredit her and to undermine her complaint.”

“Ms X considers that any attempt by police to publicly discredit a rape victim and adversely comment on evidence in an on-going investigation is despicable and offensive. Such attempts should be condemned in the strongest terms.”

The accusation surfaced online in early November, sparking outrage on Facebook and the Reddit-like forum LIHKG. The Facebook page “HA Secrets” – which shares anonymous posts related to the Hospital Authority – said that more than one of its administrators confirmed that the incident took place.

police emblem
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Apple Daily on Sunday cited three anonymous sources as saying that an 18-year-old woman received an abortion at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last Thursday.

The lawyers’ statement continued with a scathing condemnation of the police from Ms X, stating that they are incapable of looking into her case with impartiality.

“Unsurprisingly, Ms X has formed the view that the Hong Kong police force cannot be trusted to impartially investigate her allegations or indeed any criminal complaints relating to police officers,” it read. “Ms X demands that the police immediately cease the unlawful and grossly unprofessional leaking of information and comment about her case. She asks for her privacy to be respected.”

september 15 China extradition police causeway bay
Photo: Studio Incendo.

On Monday, the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women said it was shocked and deeply concerned by the accusations: The victim in this case, like any victim of sexual violence is entitled to have her allegations investigated impartially, professionally and confidentially by the police, irrespective of who the alleged assailants are. This has clearly not happened in this case,” a statement read.

Series of allegations

Hong Kong police have come under increased scrutiny for their handling of the city’s 24 weeks of unrest triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition agreement proposal with mainland China – a jurisdiction with a poor human rights record. The movement has since morphed into wider calls for democratic reform and an independent commission of inquiry into alleged police misconduct, as well as the government’s handling of the crisis since June.

In August, an anonymous arrestee claimed that a female police officer conducted an unnecessary, glove-less naked body search and used a pen to force her legs open. And last month, a student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong – Sonia Ng – alleged that she had been sexually assaulted while detained at Kwai Chung Police Station.

metoo august 28 china extradition

During a protester-led citywide strike on Monday, some crowds in malls chanted “rapists” at police officers in response to Ms X’s allegation.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.