A man with hearing impairment spent six days in a Hong Kong psychiatric hospital after police and medics misunderstood his condition because no one translated his sign language.
The 32-year-old, surnamed Liu, was handed by police to an emergency unit and then on to an institution for the mentally ill without ever being offered an interpreter in November 2016.
Liu was collected by officers after quarrelling with his mother who told them that he had "mental problems". Unable to understand Liu's hand gestures, they sent him to the emergency unit at Tuen Mun Hospital.
After two days at Tuen Mun Liu was then transferred to Castle Peak Hospital, a psychiatric facility, where he remained for six days. At no point during the ordeal was he offered an interpreter.
Liu was only rescued after his employer contacted his sister to report him absent from work. His sister then ascertained his whereabouts and freed him with the help of a doctor and a lawyer.
A spokesman for the Hospital Authority New Territories West Cluster told HKFP that Liu voluntarily signed a written agreement to be transferred to the secure unit and that he had not actively sought an interpreter.
But campaigners dismissed their defence. Siu Tsan, founder of the NGO Silence, said: "I found it strange that the hospital said Liu did not seek sign language services. [If] you know he is hearing-impaired, then you should be proactive and offer a language interpreter, rather than ask him if he needs an interpreter."
Liu told reporters through an interpreter that he has a juvenile reading age and could therefore not understand the complex documents that he signed within the hospital. He said he was frightened and confused throughout the ordeal.
Tsan said: "People with hearing impairment usually have low self-esteem and will sign documents even if they don't understand the content. Many people in society and even organisations lack an understanding of people with hearing impairments."
The Hong Kong Equal Opportunities Commission said: "We urge the person involved to contact us directly and we would do our utmost to provide assistance."