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Sunday, Apr 02, 2023

Mother remanded in custody over Hong Kong school admission bribery charge

Mother remanded in custody over Hong Kong school admission bribery charge

Li Junping pleaded guilty to offering an advantage to a public servant, after she tried to make HK$20,000 payment to secure son’s admission to school.

A mother has been remanded in custody while she awaits sentencing for trying to bribe a head teacher with HK$20,000 to secure a spot for her son at a primary school in Hong Kong.

Li Junping, 45, appeared before Eastern Court on Tuesday to plead guilty to offering an advantage to a public servant, an offence punishable by up to three years in prison and a HK$100,000 fine when the case is heard by a magistrate.

The housewife’s lawyer told the court that Li had not been aware of local legislation having just relocated to the city from mainland China.

Hennessy Road Government Primary School in Causeway Bay.

But Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui Yee-mei said the defendant’s premeditation was clear in how she offered the bribe in two envelopes that she had prepared in advance to conceal the crime.

While parents would understandably try to secure the best school placements for their children, Chui said, this had to be done within the law and any attempt to secure placements through bribes was unfair to other candidates.

The court heard Li, who is from the mainland, moved to Hong Kong in June 2022 alongside her only son who was then aged six.

She filed an application for a Primary One placement at Hennessy Road Government Primary School in Causeway Bay on June 6 last year, as she was unhappy with the result of the Education Bureau’s central allocation scheme.

The school arranged a first interview for the six-year-old but did not invite him for a second round.

Li approached principal Phoebe Lo Pui-shan and begged her to reconsider her son’s application, but was told to wait for the school’s reply.

On June 18, the housewife sent Lo a sealed envelope containing a letter and a smaller envelope stuffed with 18 HK$1,000 banknotes and four HK$500 bills.

A prosecution’s case summary said the head teacher was “shocked” and immediately put the money back without checking how much there was. A school employee returned the money to Li on the same day.

The housewife returned to the school two days later with the HK$20,000 looking to have a final chance to pay off the head teacher, but was arrested before she could do so.

The defendant told investigators from the Independent Commission Against Corruption that the money was meant to be a “donation” to the school if her son’s application was successful, adding that she knew what she did was wrong.

The court heard that Li’s father-in-law was so angry with her behaviour that he evicted her and the son from the home they shared.

The defence urged the court to consider imposing a community service order or a suspended jail term, but the magistrate refused, highlighting the gravity of the offence.

The accused was remanded in custody until sentencing on March 28 pending her background report.


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