Hong Kong- Last month disturbing video testimony of a boy, identified only as X was presented in court during the trial of his father, step-mother and step-grandmother for child abuse and murder leading to the 2018 death of his sister, Z. The testimony told some of what led prosecutors to say that "The two children actually lived, figuratively speaking, in hell."
Last week the three were found guilty of the charges against them and earlier today the judge, Albert Wong Sung-hau, handed down life sentences to both the father and step-mother for murdering the girl.
The pair was additionally sentenced to nine and a half years for the child cruelty charges to which they had pleaded guilty earlier. The sentence, just shy of the maximum allowable of ten years, will be served concurrently with their life term.
The step-grandmother was also found guilty of child cruelty for failure to intervene and seek aid for the children despite knowing that the abuse was ongoing as they were all living together under the same roof. She was sentenced to five years.
During sentencing, Sung-hau noted that she was the children's "only hope," and called her failure to act selfish and amounted to "acquiescence or connivance to the conducts of the other two defendants."
“What [the parents] did on [the girl] ranks as one of the worst cases of its kind,” the Sung-hau said. “If [the grandparent] had not neglected the girl, her death could have been avoided.”
Noting that she identified herself as a Christian, Sung-hau reminded her of 1 John 1:9 reading, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness," while he was handing down his sentences.
According to the South China Morning Post this elicited no response from the woman.
The case has prompted questions about whether or not the system in place for reporting suspected child abuse is effective. Kindergarten teachers had reportedly noticed not only changes in behavior in X and Z, but had also noted bruising and scars in September 2017.
Z was last seen at school at the end of October 2017, and formally removed during the first week of December.
Despite reports of suspected abuse within the school system into November which involved a school social worker contacting the Social Welfare Department, it is unclear if there was ever any official actions taken to look into the childrens' wellbeing.
Chief Inspector Ko Mei-yee urged people who suspected abuse to come forward and report it to police saying, "A single report can protect children from further harm."