Woman who waited years for public housing hid husband's death

A woman who waited six years for a government flat in Hong Kong hid the fact her husband had died months earlier and submitted documents with his signature to the city's Housing Authority, a court had heard.

Shirley Li Weiyan, 62, was sentenced to four weeks in jail, suspended for 18 months, after she pleaded guilty to one count of fraud at Kwun Tong Court on Thursday. She was also kicked out of the flat.

Magistrate Leung Ka-kie said it was a serious offence and affected the allocation system for the city's public housing.

The Hong Kong government has been under immense pressure to build more public housing as the average waiting time for general applicants can reach five years. Official statistics released last year showed the longest wait for a government flat in the city had been 18 years.

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The court heard Li and her husband Ng Chi-lun submitted their application in January 2012. The couple were finally granted a flat in Hon Pak House in Wan Hon Estate on May 3, 2018, four months after Ng had died.

Li did not divulge his death to the authority and instead submitted two sets of documents between January and May, with forged versions of her husband's signature.

In August, staff at the Housing Authority discovered Ng's death and reported the case to police.

Executive director Anthony Chiu Kwok-wai, of the Federation of Public Housing Estates, explained in general, those partnered with an elderly person could join an expedited queue when applying for public housing. While Li was in her 50s, Ng's age was unknown when they applied for public housing in 2012. But the size of the flat would be the same, Chiu said.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.