A Hong Kong husband and wife have been jailed for five years and four months each for abusing a friend's young daughter who died malnourished and covered with more than 70 bruises, abrasions and scars while in their care.
Housewife Or Ching-man and construction worker Shiu Kwok-wai returned to the High Court on Wednesday for sentencing in one of the city's most shocking cases of child cruelty in recent years.
The court previously heard that 22-month-old Heiley Or, who was not related to the defendants, weighed just 8kg and had 70 injuries over her body when she was rushed to hospital in the early hours of June 20, 2019, after purportedly choking on a soft pork bone.
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She was certified dead little more than 30 minutes later.
Or, 36, later admitted she had tied the toddler up with a metal dog leash when she was left home alone, and beat her with rattan sticks to the point they broke when the girl was "naughty".
Shiu, 33, similarly admitted to slapping Heiley on multiple occasions from January 2019, but claimed to have used only "moderate force", as he knew he would have killed her if he used all his strength.
It remains unclear what caused the head injuries directly to blame for Heiley's death.
The pair pleaded guilty last month to one count of wilful assault, ill-treatment or neglect by those in charge of a child, an offence punishable by 10 years in prison.
The situation was reminiscent of a 2018 case involving the abuse of a five-year-old girl who died of blood poisoning following months of cruelty that weakened her immunity. Her father and stepmother are now appealing against their murder convictions, which resulted in life sentences.
Hong Kong authorities have reported a surge in child abuse over the first nine months of the year compared with the same period in 2020, possibly linked to societal changes and a weakened economy brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Reported cases of child cruelty were up 66 per cent, from 525 in the first nine months of 2020, to 871 in the same period this year.
Cases of physical abuse, meanwhile, jumped 70 per cent, from 262 to 444. About 130 of the total cases involved children aged five and below.