Family members of a 66-year-old man who was found unconscious in an MTR station toilet and later died have said they were considering taking legal action against the transport company after a “dissatisfying” investigation by the corporation.

Hui, a retired civil servant, was found unconscious in an accessible toilet next to the women’s toilet in Hung Hom station on July 20 and was pronounced dead at Queen Elizabeth Hospital that night.

Hung Hom man presser
Family members of the 66-year-old man found unconscious in a toilet at Hung Hom MTR station holding a press conference on July 24, 2022. Photo: Democratic Party.

In a letter sent to Hui’s family in August, the MTR Corporation (MTRC) said that the emergency call button in the accessible toilet that Hui was found in was faulty. However, the company said that they had no record of when the button broke, or whether Hui had pressed the button that day.

Timeline of events on July 20 according to Hui’s family (Click to expand):
  • Hui disembarked from the train at Hung Hom station at 5 p.m. to use the washroom. He told his wife – who had recently surgery and had difficulty walking – to stay on the train as she had a seat and wait for him at Long Ping station.
  • At 5.25 p.m., Hui’s wife messaged to say that she had reached Long Ping station. After Hui did not respond, she called their son at 5.40 p.m.
  • The family called the police eight minutes later, and were told by the officer who answered that there was not enough information, and that the man was not a high-risk missing person.
  • At 5.59 p.m., the family called the MTRC. They gave a description of Hui and said that he had gone to the toilet. Around 20 minutes later, the family called the transit firm again to ask about the progress of the search, and was told that staff members had looked in all the station’s toilets but not found Hui.
  • Another family member called the MTRC again at 6.36 p.m., and was told again that all washrooms inside the station had been searched. By 7.00 p.m., Hui’s family had reached Hung Hom station. After looking for Hui in some of the station’s toilets, ther were advised by a staff member to spread their search to a larger area.
  • Around an hour later, the MTRC called the family to ask for Hui’s age and height, and informed them that the information would be sent to other stations.
  • At around 10 p.m., the family called Hung Hom police station again. Thirty minutes later, a cleaner found Hui unconscious in a toilet at Hung Hom station. The family was informed by Queen Elizabeth Hospital at around 11 p.m., and the man passed away at 11.42 p.m.

According to the MTRC, a staff member had instructed a cleaner “in accordance with the usual practice” to look for Hui in the station’s bathrooms after receiving the first call from the man’s family.

“However, due to a gap in communication, the cleaner only focused on searching the men’s toilet and the accessibility toilet next to it, and did not check the women’s toilet nor the accessibility toilet next door,” the letter read.

“In this area our search efforts were lacking,” the letter read.

The corporation also said that there was “room for improvement” in its communication with Hui’s family.

MTRC said, as part of a series of follow-up and improvement work, the company had checked all emergency call buttons in the stations and installed motion detectors in accessible toilets which will automatically alert the station if a user does not move for a while.

‘Shirking responsibility’

Hui’s family, in a response published through the Democratic Party, said that the MTRC was “shirking responsibility.”

Hung Hom station
A CCTV camera near the toilet at Hung Hom station where the 66-year-old man was found. Photo: Democratic Party.

According to the pro-democracy party, the family said that the corporation had put responsibility on the cleaner when it should have been the duty of station staff to patrol the station and deal with such incidents.

The company also did not mention the fact that staff members had misled the family by saying that all of the station toilets had been checked when they had not been.

Hui’s family was also considering to file a civil suit as the corporation had yet to respond to them.

MTRC told HKFP on Thursday that it had “nothing further to supplement at this stage.”

“MTRC tried its best to investigate the incident, and made suggestions on improvements. The company explained to the family in mid-August in accordance with the internal investigation, and apologised for not being able to help finding the deceased in time,” the response read.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.