A Hong Kong Hospital Authority chief and a doctor accused of theft could have forgotten to scan their food at the supermarket self check-out, the defence argued, as the trial against the couple – who stand accused of theft – began on Tuesday.

The Aeon supermarket in Whampoa. Photo: Wikicommons.

Hospital Authority chief manager Vivien Chuang, 48, and Chiu Ming-yu, 47, earlier pleaded not guilty to stealing food – including a Japanese watermelon, a melon, two boxes of blueberries and two boxes of sashimi – from the Aeon supermarket in Whampoa in April.

According to details of the case, the pair bought 23 items. On top of that, there were 10 items – worth $1632.80 – that were not paid for.

Appearing before magistrate Frances Leung at Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court, the pair were represented by barristers Lawrence Lok and Rachel Po, local media reported.

The defence said there was no controversy over the fact that they had not scanned the barcodes of some of their food items, but what could be contended was if that was because they had forgotten to do so.

Hospital Authority chief Vivien Chuang speaking at a Covid-19 press briefing on Jan. 30, 2020. Screenshot: Information Services Department, via YouTube.

Chuang, a Hospital Authority chief manager, hosted a number of the city’s daily Covid-19 press briefings during the early days of the pandemic.

Security guard’s statement

In court, the prosecution summoned the security guard that caught Chuang and Chiu after they left the supermarket.

The guard – surnamed Chan – recalled that at around 3 p.m. that day, he saw the pair pushing their trolley, with food in both the top and bottom baskets, towards the self check-out counters at the supermarket.

Seeing that they had quite a lot of items and that they were relatively expensive ones, Chan paid particular attention to them. He noticed that they did not scan all of the items including a pack of sea urchins and some fruit. Suspecting them of stealing, Chan followed them to the carpark.

Kowloon City Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

He then asked the couple if they had paid for all the items, to which they said they did. Upon checking their receipt, Chan saw that there were 10 items that they did not pay for.

CCTV footage played in court also showed that Chiu did not scan all the food items at the self check-out.

By law, theft is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, although this is capped at three years if the case is heard in a magistrate court.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.