Letter to Hong Kong from Li Yuen-yee’s family

We are the family of Li Yuen-yee. The death of our beloved Yuen-yee is a terrible tragedy for our family. The police’s abuse of power, which left pushed Yuen-yee to kill herself, has added more pain. Yuen-yee died on October 10, and thus she could not testify for herself in the court, yet her death is the strongest accusation to the police. Her last request to her family was to expose this incident, letting the supervisors of the police officer involved and our society know how the police’s abuse their power during the undercover operation (including the receipt of oral sex service and false accusation on Yuen-yee of the undercover agent).

Her parents were divorced, and she herself suffered from epilepsy and from mental illness. Yuen-yee worked as a sex worker to support herself and her younger siblings. She loved her family and had been saving money to buy flats for her brother and sister; it was her wish to give them a warm, sweet home. She had previously attempted suicide several times, but she always asked her family to save her each time. The only reason of such suicidal attempts was to gain attention from her family. Different from the suicidal attempts in the past, she was determined to tell us that she was unfairly accused with her death. She was honest and just. She said, “I will admit it if I really did that, but never for something I haven’t done, even though the price is death”. From this we are certain of the validity of her complaints against the police, and we are determined to fight for justice.

We were expecting that following the investigation by the Coroner's Court, the public would here the real story. We have no complaints with the verdict that Yuen-yee committed suicide. But we were extremely disappointed and angry about the course and results of the court trial. (1, the police gave their testimonies but they did not give the whole picture, and their lied to protect each other; 2, the jury did not make any recommendations, under the guidance of the judge.)

  1. The police did not perform their duties correctly but acted to protect their colleagues. Even after swearing the oath in court, they did not tell the truth and showed no respect for the rule of law. To secure their own interests and benefits, they did not admit their misdeeds and abuse of power. While they might escape their legal responsibility, but they should feel guilty for the rest of their lives!

  2. In fact, the recommendations from the Coroner's Court could have made some improvement in the way the police investigated this matter, drawing it to firm principles of justice and the rule of law, which gives no more change for any similar tragedy. However, the judge, Mr Chan Pik-kiu repeatedly emphasized to the jury that no recommendations were needed. We are truly very angry and disappointed about this.

We are certain that discrimination and bias against sex workers exists in our community. They are not recognized well in society and are labeled an immoral group. But please do not forget that they are our beloved family members at the same time, and there is nothing more important and precious to us than their lives. Yuen-yee worked hard to live on this earth, just like all of us do. Should our society respect their rights and dignity, which they are fully entitled to as members of society? It is this biased thinking about sex workers, which leads to the police’s unlawful treatment of Yuen Yee. Facing such injustice from the court and society, she had no choice but to end her life.

We strongly demand:

  1. that the District SD Squard II (Wanchai District) who participated in this undercover operation reveal us the truth and apologize.

  2. that Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) complete the investigation as quickly as possible, and impose punishment on the guilty officer accordingly. We also ask, that the results of the investigation be published to restore Li Yuen-yee and her family to reputation.

  3. that the ICAC get involved in the investigation of any police misconduct.

  4. that the HK SAR government set up an independent commission to handle the complaints against police officers. All complaints should be handled in an open and just manner. From the hearing of this case, we see how untrustworthy our police are, and that we have lost all trust in the Hong Kong Police Force.

  5. that the HKSAR government should legislate laws to stop the police officers from receiving any sex services in the course of investigation, to protect sex workers from police abuse.

  6. that the Police should punish the guilty officers to protect all sex workers. They should remove their discrimination against sex workers and respect sex workers’ rights. The policemen should adopt measures such as surveillance cameras during undercover operation to avoid any abuse of power and misconduct of the police officers.

In addition to losing a daughter who cared for and loved her family and her siblings, we have to face much social pressure. But we insist to stand in front of the public as we hope to restore Yuen-yee to reputation, to let her rest in peace. We believe this is not a unique incident. The Police could impose same kind of oppression on other Hong Kong citizens. We, therefore, should not let the guilty officers go, endangering other citizens. This is not only our responsibility as a member of society, but also Li’s last wish. We have done all our best for Yuen-yee’s sake, but where is your conscience, agent Yau and the Hong Kong Police Force?