A 52-year-old unemployed Hong Kong man pleaded guilty to three counts of child abuse at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday after being charged with leaving his three children home alone for three days.

The defendant, who is a single father with three children aged between nine and 14, went to mainland China on December 19 last year but did not return home until two days later, Apple Daily reported.

The defendant said he had originally planned to return to Hong Kong on the same day but stayed in the mainland because he needed to take care of his girlfriend, who had a fever.

Principal magistrate Woo Huey-fang stopped the defense lawyer and reprimanded the defendant, “the three young kids are your children, (and) you don’t take care of them but take care of an adult woman? That woman didn’t know how to go to a doctor?”

The defense lawyer pleaded for leniency saying that after defendant was jailed in 2013,  his wife left him with the three children. The lawyer explained that the defendant has been unemployed since his release from jail and that the family was under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme.

The defense lawyer said the defendant had left HK$100 (US$13) for the children before leaving home on December 19. He also called the 14-year-old daughter on the second day and asked the girl to borrow money from friends to buy food.

The magistrate slammed the defendant, saying a hundred dollars was not enough for three meals a day for three children. “When you decided to stay one more day in China, you probably couldn’t remember that you only left one hundred dollars for the children,” she said.

The magistrate later told the defendant that she understood it must be hard for a single father to raise three children. “However, the three kids are your own children and you should try your best to take good care of them,” she said. “The woman is an outsider, no relationship with you by blood,” the magistrate added.

The magistrate adjourned the case to May 11 for sentencing. The defendant was released on bail.

It is understood that the three children are now under care provided by the Social Welfare Department and that they can return home on weekends.