Nicholas Ng, 15, South Island School
Yes, they are, thanks to a range of government, legal and social factors.
First, there is better enforcement of the laws against sexual harassment in Hong Kong these days. Before, there were guidelines about hiring new coaches, which mainly included checking their past records for sexual offences.
However, things have changed since Vera Lui’s claims that she was sexually assaulted by a coach 10 years ago. Now, people are keeping a close eye on the coaches’ behaviour so that any wrongdoing can be spotted early and action taken.
It is also worth noting that there are already a number of non-governmental organisations that provide free legal consultation and advice for sexual harassment victims. This is in addition to the support offered by the Equal Opportunities Commission and government departments.
Second, there is more public awareness of the issue nowadays. Lui’s former coach has been suspended from work by two of his employers. Meanwhile, her current coach has publicly expressed his shock and disgust at the incident.
This means, in the future, offenders will face harsher punishment, both legally and from the public. This would make coaches think twice before molesting their athletes.
Third, with the current global uproar about sexual harassment, today’s athletes would be on the lookout for any dodgy behaviour by coaches and be prepared to call them out. They no longer have to fear anything. They know that the public would fully support them.
Certainly, the path to completely eliminating sexual assault is a long one, but Hong Kong is doing remarkably well.
Hong Kong athlete Vera Lui’s support of #MeToo campaign shows that we need to further raise awareness of sexual harassment
Pearl Chia, 17, South Island School
Hong Kong’s female athletes have very little protection from sexual assault. The fact that Hong Kong hurdling champion Vera Lui Lai-yiu was molested by her coach
10 years ago shows that this kind of thing has been happening for a very long time here, but very little action has been taken. Local sports associations still lack the “teeth” to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
In a 2015 survey, the Equal Opportunities Commission found that only seven out of 57 responding sports associations had written sexual harassment policies in place. What’s more, more than 70 local athletes have made their concerns clear through a joint statement, asking the government and sports authorities to take concrete measures to punish sexual abusers.
Given the power coaches and supervisors have over athletes, it’s very important that new laws are introduced to protect budding sports stars.
The guidelines should include a coach or trainer’s interactions with athletes, such as avoiding unnecessary physical contact and being alone with them.
In addition, the victims of sexual abuse need more support. For example, counselling services should be offered to them, and Hong Kong should establish a committee that allows athletes to report harassment safely. Also, victims should be protected during the prosecution process in court. This would encourage others to take action if they are sexually harassed.
Athletes, particularly young people, including teenagers, deserve a system which makes them feel safe and holds offenders responsible for their actions. As such, I am happy that Cricket Hong Kong has introduced an anti-harassment code for its players and staff.
Hopefully this year we will see other sports organisations taking similar steps to ensure their athletes are well protected.