Rape suspect appears in HK court

Updated: 2013-06-05 01:27

By Kahon Chanin Hong Kong (China Daily)

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An Indian man suspected of raping a college student from Beijing in a guesthouse at Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong remains in custody after making his first appearance in a Hong Kong court on Tuesday.

No pleas were taken from the 26-year-old man at Kowloon City Magistrates' Court on Tuesday morning. He will remain in custody before returning to the court next month pending forensic findings.

The man was charged with raping the 21-year-old mainland college student on Saturday night at the Rhine Guesthouse. The woman's identity is protected by law, but several media reports said she attends Beijing Normal University.

The woman reportedly stayed in a private room with a female friend for a three-day visit and had to share a bathroom down the hall with other tenants. The suspect allegedly entered the woman's unlocked room while her friend was in the bathroom and left before the friend returned.

Police were called and the woman was taken to a hospital.

The mazelike, mixed-use Chungking Mansions complex was cordoned off and searched immediately. Using a description provided by the victim, the suspect was quickly identified on security cameras and arrested at about 5 am on Sunday.

Reports said the suspect was granted temporary permission to live in the city during several years' stay at another Chungking Mansions guesthouse. Though he is barred from employment, he has reportedly managed to make a living as a porter.

Asylum seekers in Hong Kong are usually granted temporary permission to stay on humanitarian grounds. They were allowed to work before February 2010, but the law was revised following widespread abuse of the policy.

As of March 2013, there were 4,348 asylum seekers awaiting such permission from the city's Immigration Department, which expects to screen and classify 2,000 torture claims before March 2014.

Apart from being a home to traders and asylum seekers, Chungking Mansions is also well known among backpackers for affordable accommodation.

Rhine Guesthouse once ranked high on qmango.com, a popular booking engine targeting young travelers from the Chinese mainland, but it has not been featured or listed on Lonely Planet, hostelworld.com or TripAdvisor.

The guesthouse was removed from the mainland site's listing, but was still a licensed guesthouse as of Tuesday.

Last year, an Indian woman was gang-raped in her home at Chungking Mansions during a power blackout.

Sex crimes were not a concern in the city until recently. Hong Kong police investigated 121 cases of rape in 2012, up 33 percent from the previous year. Thirty-five more cases were reported in the first quarter of 2013, marking a year-on-year increase of 60 percent.

Police said that many of the rape cases involved people who knew each other.