Ex-Priest Accused of Child Abuse in Hong Kong Released on Bail

A former priest was released on bail Sunday, a day after police arrested him for allegedly sexually abusing a teen-ager 11 years ago.

Michael Lau, 42, was the first suspect to be arrested in an escalating controversy engulfing Hong Kong's Roman Catholic Church over allegations that six priests were involved in child sex abuse.

The allegations come amid a pedophile priest scandal in the United States.

Diocesan authorities in Hong Kong reassured churchgoers Sunday they would not tolerate any sexual abuse by priests.

"It is beyond question that pedophile abuses are not only appalling sins but also serious crimes," said a notice posted in Hong Kong Catholic Cathedral on Sunday.

Police spokesman T.K. Ng said officers picked up Lau from his Hong Kong home Saturday after receiving a complaint from a man who accused the priest of abusing him in 1991 when he was 15 years old. Lau has not been formally charged and will report to police on Monday, Ng said.

Ng said the man first went to the police in 1999, but the case was dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Rev. Lawrence Lee, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, said, however, that the victim complained to the church 11 years ago.

Lau, then a trainee priest, admitted to the church that he had sexually abused the boy twice and the church asked him to leave the priesthood. Lee said the boy's family had not wanted to report the matter to the police at the time.

Separately, Ng said police had received a complaint Friday accusing another priest of sexually assaulting a student in 1997. Ng declined to give more details.

Lee said the church received two similar complaints Friday.

In the first, a man said he was sexually molested by a priest during a camping trip more than two decades ago when he was 15. Lee said the priest in question no longer worked in Hong Kong.

In the second, another man alleged a trainee priest sexually abused several of his classmates 30 years ago. The technical school involved in the second case was looking into the charges, Lee said.

A fifth priest accused of molesting a boy has been suspended from public ministry and was receiving therapy, while the sixth alleged offense took place in another country before the priest came to Hong Kong, Lee said.

The Hong Kong church has pledged to form an interdisciplinary committee to review its procedures on sexual abuse.