7th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) 29-year-old mother of Indian descent suspected of suffocating three young girls between the ages of 2 and 5 in Sham Shui Po, sparking concerns over the living conditions, emotional struggles, and interpersonal relationships faced by ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong. The tragic loss of innocent lives has evoked sympathy and reflection from the public. Residents who do not know the family personally have laid flowers and offerings at the crime scene. They expressed their heartache, anxiety, and helplessness, with one citizen stating, “vulnerable communities really need help.” Social welfare organisations are continuing to set up street stations and distribute leaflets in the area, urging citizens who are facing family or emotional difficulties to seek help proactively. Social workers also called for society to remove the stigma that only the weak will seek help.
Since yesterday morning, citizens have been visiting the crime scene on Kweilin Street to pay their respects. Some citizens brought children’s favorite food and drinks to the door of the crime scene, and others placed flowers downstairs. One female neighbour who placed a white bouquet on the stair railing said she lived nearby and did not know the deceased family, but felt it was “so tragic” and came to mourn. Another female neighbour who lived in the building where the tragedy occurred expressed sadness and helplessness, saying that she occasionally saw the mother and daughter involved in the incident going up and down the stairs, and they would greet each other every time they met. She did not notice any problems with them.
A man who runs a stationery and candle shop downstairs, said he occasionally saw the mother and daughter involved in the incident going up and down the stairs, but he never saw all three of her daughters together. The mother and daughters never bought stationery from his shop. He said, “we are all neighbours,” and would wait for the arrangements from the authorities before performing the ritual and praying for the deceased.
Another woman said she did not know the family involved in the incident, but was very troubled when she learned of the tragedy, and felt low emotionally. However, she did not need assistance at the moment and would talk to her friends to express her feelings and watch the news to understand why the society “has become like this (with frequent ethical tragedies).” She believes that Hong Kong’s vulnerable communities have not received adequate help or attention, and they will not seek help, resulting in the situation where “it seems there is no way to seek help.”
Raina, the 4-year-old daughter, and Aayat, the 5-year-old daughter, who were killed in the incident, attended Western Pacific Kindergarten, and many parents said they had not been notified of what had happened. A mother surnamed Tse said that two-thirds of the students in the school were of South Asian descent. She felt depressed after learning about the incident, saying, “it’s so unfortunate. They (the three girls) are so young, why did this happen to them? And all three of them died.” Another South Asian father also felt regret and sadness about the incident, saying, “it’s not good for children. In my home country, she (the mother) would be sentenced to death.” According to a foreign female neighbuor, she usually found the mother friendly and polite, and had a good relationship with her three daughters. The three children were very cute, so she would sometimes give them chocolate. She also said that she saw the mother with her friends and relatives last Sunday night around 9 o’clock and did not expect such a tragedy to happen. She speculated that the incident may be related to family problems, as she had never seen the male head of the household.
As the recent series of tragedies have caused emotional distress to many citizens and raised concerns about ethnic minority issues, the Society for Community Organization (SoCO), which focuses on grassroots and vulnerable communities, sent members to the crime scene on Kweilin Street to post notices with multiple help groups and hotlines, urging those with family problems or emotional distress to seek help. Social workers from the Hong Kong International Social Service also continued to set up temporary “social work consultation stations” and distribute leaflets outside the MTR station in Sham Shui Po to educate citizens on stress management after crisis events.
The SoCO has called on the government to increase its support services for ethnic minorities and conduct more regular home visits on vulnerable families. Sze Lai-shan, SoCO’s deputy director, made the comments following the tragic incident on Monday where a woman of South Asian descent allegedly killed her three young daughters. The family was part of an active case at an NGO, and Sze stated that SoCO visited the building once a month but had been unsuccessful in making contact with the family.
Sze also highlighted the challenges faced by ethnic minorities in seeking help, including language barriers and reluctance to discuss family relationships. The building where the family lived in Sham Shui Po was originally meant for 27 households but had been converted into subdivided flats, with around 100 households now residing there. Many of the residents are on low incomes, and Sze noted that looking after three small children would be difficult for anyone. Neighbours who had spoken with the family were reportedly shocked as everything had seemed fine.