HK court acquits English tutor accused of bribing exam assessor

19-May-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A celebrity English tutor accused of bribing a Hong Kong public exam assessor three years ago was acquitted on Saturday, after a court found it questionable whether he knew the marking scheme he published online during a test was confidential.

But West Kowloon Court also ruled Kris Lau Koon-wah had brought suspicion upon himself by offering HK$1,000 (US$129) to co-defendant Seraph Wong Tsz-hin, after obtaining from him confidential information in the English Listening and Integrated Skills paper of the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams in April 2017.

Lau faced a joint charge of conspiracy for an agent to accept an advantage alongside his former student Wong, who was also acquitted.

The allegation came after Lau published the assessment criteria on his Facebook page, along with information on how candidates had performed on the paper, while the university entrance test was ongoing.

The trial heard that Lau, an English instructor at tuition school Modern Education, had instructed Wong to give him the confidential information following Wong’s appointment as a marking assistant for the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority.

In his defence, Lau said Wong had been his “keyboard fighter” who promoted his business on online platforms, and he had offered Wong the money merely to show his gratitude for the support. He also said the marking scheme he published online was nothing more than his observations on the exam paper.

Wong said he had been receiving cash from Lau for helping him advertise his brand, and he was unaware that he was required to keep the marking scheme a secret.

But magistrate Jocelyn Leung Siu-ling dismissed the pair’s assertions after finding inconsistencies in their claims.

She found that Lau had published the assessment criteria on social media in far more detail than just observations, while pointing out that Wong could not have failed to observe the requirement for confidentiality after he received repeated reminders.

The magistrate observed from WhatsApp messages between the two defendants that they must have agreed to leak the secrets of the exam authority upon Lau’s tip. She also ruled that Wong must have knowingly breached his duty to remain tight-lipped about his work with the exam authority.

“The requirement for confidentiality must be extended to the period after the end of an assessor’s duty. If such requirement ceases immediately [upon completion of duty], it would become unreasonable and redundant,” Leung said.

“[Wong's] act has compromised the interests of the exam authority and impaired the fiduciary relationship between the parties.”

But while the defendants’ acts appeared to constitute an offence, the magistrate said she could not be sure whether Lau knew that Wong was not allowed to divulge details on the exam.

She ruled that, without direct evidence showing Lau’s understanding on the duty of a public exam assessor, the alleged bribe might have well been a continuation of previous payments as a result of Wong promoting Lau’s tutorial classes. Hence, it was also unsure whether Wong had intended to breach his duty of confidence by accepting an advantage.

“The prosecution has failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt,” Leung concluded.

The magistrate turned down the defence application for costs of the proceedings, saying the defendants’ acts had been “more than suspicious”.


Category: Hong Kong

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