Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah condemned opposition politicians for irresponsibly misleading and inciting young people — including children — to break the law in Hong Kong.
Cheng said she was very sad to see a growing number of young people, particularly students aged between 11 and 13, committing crimes and getting arrested.
The justice secretary warned that if they were convicted, then a criminal record would damage them for life.
Young people might break the law if they are offered money, under the pressure of their peers and if they want to achieve certain things. Yet criminal records will harm their futures when they want jobs or to study abroad
Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, secretary for justice
She blamed opposition politicians for putting odious ideas into young people’s minds like “civil disobedience”, “breaking the law can achieve a purpose” and “a criminal record will make one’s life more beautiful”.
“I feel sad and worried,” Cheng said. “Young people might break the law if they are offered money, under the pressure of their peers and if they want to achieve certain things. Yet criminal records will harm their futures when they want jobs or to study abroad.”
“They should not believe the lies that they will be treated leniently, say in the form of caution by a police superintendent. I must tell them that a caution only applies to under-aged offenders for offenses which are not serious. These offenders must also show remorse and plead guilty to the charge,” she explained.
Violent protests, arson and vandalism have rocked the city since last June. This quickly escalated to a very alarming level — bordering on “homegrown terrorism”. There have been multiple cases of homemade explosives being found in Hong Kong. In some cases, explosives were placed in public areas, such as inside a train, hospital or school.
“Recently, a young man who pleaded guilty to rioting was sentenced to four years imprisonment, two years less than the starting point of six years,” Cheng noted.
Last Tuesday, a 15-year-old boy, convicted of throwing a gasoline bomb, was given a probation order for 18 months.
Cheng said the use of bombs was a very serious offense carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment — like arson. The maximum sentence for rioting is 10 years in prison.
However, most offenders who desecrated the national flag have not been imprisoned.
Cheng said: “The Department of Justice has applied for a review of sentences regarding desecration of the national flag. The court ruling is that those who burn and desecrate the national flag will be jailed — with a starting point of four months.”
“In regard to the bomb case involving the 15-year-old boy, this was only concluded on Tuesday. We will review it internally and will not comment at this stage,” she said.
Recently, District Court Judge Kwok Wai-kin was sidelined by the judiciary from hearing violent protest cases after showing sympathy to the defendant. However, he did hand down a less-than-lenient sentence of 45 months in prison. This was after the defendant pleaded guilty to injuring three people during an incident involving posters being put up on a wall in August 2019.
Magistrate Kelly Shui, who handled the bomb case involving the 15-year-old boy, also sparked controversy and a public outcry after describing the boy as a “brilliant lad”. She then gave him a probation order — not a custodial sentence.
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