Phila Siu from Standard
Police are searching for a middle-aged man linked to what appears to have been a bid to grab students of a prominent primary school in Kowloon Tong.
But the suspect has a long start on the cops, for staff of La Salle Primary School only reported the move on three pupils yesterday morning - five days after an incident that has panicked parents.
And word of the incident only spread after a parent of one boy who was targeted wrote about it on an internet forum.
Security around the school was tight yesterday as officers of the Kowloon City District Crime Squad visited. Officers talked to parents and to security guards in nearby buildings.
The incident came after the kids left the school last Wednesday afternoon and were on their way to a coach that would drop them near their homes.
It involved a man aged around 40 who approached three youngsters walking together. He asked one of them, a Primary Three pupil, where he was going.
The youngster refused to answer him, and so the man turned to another child and asked if he wanted to go with him to "have some tea." That youngster said he did not want anything from the man and the three boys then ran to the coach.
School head of discipline Simon Yu Tung-kiu said the incident came about because of a communication problem between parents and a coach company over where pupils should board the vehicle.
Staff from the company normally escort youngsters from the school to where the vehicle is parked - a walk of a few minut
es. But there was no one to escort the boys that day, so they walked alone to the coach outside the Maryknoll Convent School's primary division.
The coach was not outside La Salle Primary as pupils from other schools were also being picked up, Yu said.
"That coach service is not offered by the school," he added, saying it is a private arrangement. But the school has set up a task force and met with parents on transport arrangements.
The school also made announcements about the danger in morning assembly and sent letters yesterday to all parents about the incident. A police spokesman said the force has stepped up patrols in the area.
Leticia Lee See-yin, chairwoman of the Federation of Hong Kong Parents Association, was "very shocked."
She said she had heard of a similar case before the Lunar New Year when a man approached a young boy on his way home from a park in Tai Wai. But the child ran home.
Children do not have the strength to fight would-be abductors, she added, and "parents really have to warn their children not to talk to strangers."
In the La Salle Primary incident, she criticized the coach firm for failing to provide an escort and said the school should have a teacher ready to step in.