SCMP Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Teen mother threw baby from window


A scared and confused schoolgirl who threw her baby to its death from a window minutes after giving birth had received little sympathy from an unforgiving community, a court heard yesterday.

Cheung Lok-man, 17, was advised to leave her school because of the incident, and unsympathetic neighbours caused the family to move away from their home, the judge was told. The teenager, who wept in the dock, had kept her pregnancy secret and received no medical help.

"She felt so ashamed, frightened and concerned that she concealed the pregnancy from her family members. This led to her isolation and depression," said Nelson Lam, defending. "She felt that she was dying many deaths inside her."

Cheung gave birth to the baby girl alone, in a room at her family's home in Fanling on October 14 last year. Frightened and not knowing what to do, she threw it out of the window, the court heard.

She pleaded guilty at the Court of First Instance to the infanticide of the unnamed baby.

Cheung had originally been charged with murder and spent time in jail on remand before the charge was changed to infanticide.

Mr Lam said he found it alarming that Cheung, a Form Five student at the time, had not been able to stay on at her school.

"Unfortunately, in Hong Kong, even a school does not hold a very sympathetic view towards incidents like this. At the time she was studying in Form Five. But because of this she was advised to leave the school," he added.

Residents in Fanling, where Cheung lived, had also been unsympathetic, and as a result the family had moved, the court heard. "One can reflect on what the family have been going through, the anguish and anxiety. We in Hong Kong, our neighbours, the community, are less [than] sympathetic to a young girl getting pregnant," Mr Lam said.

Cheung became pregnant by her boyfriend. He was 14 when they met and she was 15. "She was very immature. She felt there was love and romance. This is an adult lesson we have all gone through. Perhaps, unfortunately, in Hong Kong we do not receive good sex education like overseas schools," Mr Lam said.

He told the judge: "Even though this young lady has pleaded guilty today, this is not the end of the matter. In years to come, she will have to face the sadness."

She has since attended evening classes and passed the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination. She is now taking clerical and computer courses.

Prosecutor Peter Power said the baby's body was found on the Ka Fuk Estate, Fanling, where the family lived. The child died from multiple injuries.

When visited by police "the accused appeared nervous, had tears in her eyes and lowered her head to avoid looking at the officer making further inquiries".

After talking to her mother in private, Cheung admitted killing the baby. In a report submitted to the court, psychiatrist Dr Yeung Cheung-hang said: "It is quite evident that the killing in the present case was in the context on an unwanted and concealed pregnancy.

"It is understandable that she would be under extreme anxiety at the material time of giving birth to her baby and that the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered."

Mr Justice Peter Nguyen adjourned the case so that a probation report can be prepared on Cheung.