By Chris Yeung –
Star hurdler Vera Lui has crossed many hurdles on track and field in different parts of the world. She finished first in the women’s 60-metre hurdles event in the Asian Indoor Games in September.
After more than 10 years, she today took the biggest leap in her life to tell a secret she had kept to herself except one close friend two years ago. In a post on her Facebook to celebrate her 23rd birthday, Lui claimed she was sexually assaulted by a coach ten years ago.
The city was shocked.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor lost no time to come out to say sorry for her ordeal, as many fellow Hongkongers feel. And like many others, she applauded her courageous move while pledging the Police will seriously investigate the case.
First inspired by the sexual assault case of Taiwanese author Elizabeth Lin Yi-han in summer, Lui said her impulse to reveal the unhappy experience turned into driving force when she read the story of McKayla Maroney, the American gymnast who won gold medals at the London Olympics a few months ago. Maroney revealed on social media that she was sexually assaulted by her team doctor.
Lui said she was coming forward for three reasons: to increase public awareness of sexual assault against children; to encourage victims to bravely speak up; and to let the public understand that sex was not an embarrassing, shameful or taboo subject.
It remains to be seen on whether similar victims would come forward to tell their plight. There is no doubt, nevertheless, Lui’s courage has marked a significant step forward not just to heightening public awareness of sexual assault against children, but breaking the taboo of sex in the society.
More importantly, it has given a big boost to the impulse of people taking the courage to come forward and speak up on what they believe to be right, not being deterred by the immense societal pressure stemmed from traditional values and culture.
As Lui plainly and aptly pointed out in her Facebook post, “In Chinese culture, sex has long been an embarrassing, shameful or taboo subject.” Traditional Chinese thinking has it been that families should keep scandals in wraps, not to make them public.
It is not difficult to understand why Lui had kept her unhappy experience for more than ten years in the face of the depth of traditional thinking prevalent in the society.
Time has changed. Signs are that some values and ideas deeply ingrained in the society are beginning to change. More people feel the impulse and the imperative of coming forward – and speaking up.
Cases are aplenty. Undaunted by the blistering attacks from the pro-Beijing, pro-establishment camp against their sons, the fathers of student leaders Alex Chow Yong-kang and Joshua Wong Chi-fung came out from their private worlds to defend their sons.
It may only sound natural for parents to be the first and the last to shield their children. But for the fathers of Chow and Wong, whose sons have been branded as the leading trouble-makers during the Occupy Central, they need tonnes of courage to come out to confront the barrage of verbal attacks.
Similarly, the experience of being confined to a cell without freedom and naked body search are the last thing people would like to share with others. Given, many would like to be forgotten and not be seen after having served jail term.
That the student trio, Alex Chow, Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, have come out to make allegations of inhumane treatment by correctional services staff during their imprisonment says something about the profound change of thinking about such once-taboo topics as imprisonment.
Taken together, those cases of people dare to come forward, stand up and speak out reflect cultural changes aggravated by factors including the growth of social media. Such global campaigns as “Me Too” hashtag campaign against sexual harassment have globalised values and thinking.
The culture of “coming forward” is set to grow further in the Hong Kong society, bringing about profound changes in the city.
Chris Yeung, Chief Writer of newly-launched CitizenNews, is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.
Photo: Pictures taken from Lui’s Facebook