The child, a girl, was approximately 9 at the date of the alleged wrongful removal. She had lived in Hong Kong all of her life. The parents were divorced. The mother had sole custody of the child and the father had rights of access. A custody decree barred the unilateral removal of the child from Hong Kong without the consent of the other parent or the court.
On 2 April 1999 the mother unilaterally took the child to New York. On 8 April the mother filed an action in the Family Court in New York County seeking, inter alia, custody and child support. On 22 April the father filed a missing persons report with the police in Hong Kong. On 14 May he filed a petition for return of the child in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
On 29 October 1999 that court ordered the return of the child to Hong Kong, subject to certain conditions. However, the court subsequently granted a motion by the mother to stay its return order pending an expedited appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.