Virus prankster punished

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2003, 12:00am

A 14-year-old who triggered panic buying with a bogus online report saying the chief executive had declared Hong Kong an infected port because of Sars, and had quit, received his punishment yesterday: a year's supervision by social workers.

Chief Magistrate Patrick Li Hon-leung justified his leniency by saying the boy was young, had co-operated with police, his conduct was otherwise good and his prank had no serious consequences.

Mr Li exercised his discretion to dismiss the charge of spreading false information, meaning the boy will not have a criminal record. He had pleaded guilty.

The boy posted the report on his website on April Fool's Day, using Ming Pao's logo, and alerted friends to it, Kowloon City Juvenile Court heard. He removed it after realising an unusually high number of visitors had browsed the site. But by then his 'news' had been spread, forcing the government to send out six million mobile-phone text messages denying the rumours.