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Former HK Priest Faces Abuse Charges

Jan 13, 2003 | BBC

A former Roman Catholic priest has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing a teenage boy in Hong Kong in the early 1990s.

Michael Lau, 42, faces four counts of indecent assault and one of buggery between 1991-2.

He could be sentenced to seven years in prison if found guilty.

Mr Lau, who now works as an insurance agent, is the first person associated with the Catholic clergy in the territory to face charges of abusing a teenager in his care.

He was arrested in May last year following a series of complaints made against priests in Hong Kong.

'Confused'

The plaintiff in the case, who was 15 at the time of the alleged assaults and is now 27, told the court his version of events from behind a screen.

He said that he did not immediately report Mr Lau to the authorities because he was confused at the time.

"Michael seemed to be a good friend and supporter of the family. I trusted him as a good priest and a good friend," he said.

The plaintiff said that he had confided to Mr Lau that he was finding girls attractive, and in response the priest took the boy to bed, promising "sexual therapy".

"I was a kid at the time," the plaintiff said. "I didn't really know (whether) what he had done to me was right or wrong."

Defrocked

Mr Lau was defrocked in 1995 after an internal church investigation found he had twice molested the boy, but it never reported the findings to the police.

The Church has since begun referring serious cases to the police, after acknowledging it had previously failed to adequately handle some of the allegations.

It now says it is adopting a "zero tolerance" policy toward sexual abuse of children.

There are about a quarter of a million Roman Catholics in Hong Kong and the Church runs more than 300 schools and nurseries. About 300 priests work in the former British colony.


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