Former offender recalls the worst pain of his life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 April, 1994, 12:00am

FLOGGING was abolished in Hong Kong in 1990 after more than 80 years on the statute books.

Between 1981 and 1988, 88 offenders, some as young as 13, received more than 280 lashes between them.

Many were caned simply for carrying a knife in self defence against street gangs.

Accounts by offenders flogged in Hong Kong show just how horrific the punishment is - the psychological and physical effects can last for years.

The floggings were administered with metre-long rattan canes, and frequently left prisoners bleeding heavily and unable to walk.

The number of strokes was limited to 18 for men aged over 17 and six for boys under 14. Women were exempt from flogging.

One ex-offender who received 12 strokes described how he heard the prison officers practising with their canes as he waited for the punishment.

The man, who called himself Mr Yeung, said he was deprived of food before the beating in case he lost control of his bowels.

He was then stripped naked from the waist down and told to bend over a wooden block.

The prison superintendent read out the details of his crime and gave the order for the first stroke.

Mr Yeung said the pain from that initial lash was worse than anything he had ever known and that some prisoners passed out at that point. There was a pause of seven to eight seconds between each stroke.

The flogging left Mr Yeung so raw that he could not wear trousers for a week and had to sleep on his front for the next three weeks. He was also unable to sit on the toilet or wash that part of his body for a month.

Mr Yeung said he felt huge resentment towards all authority for a long time.

''I just think something very terrible was done to me. I wouldn't want it done to anyone else, not for anything in the world,'' he said.

Caning was outlawed in Britain in 1949.

The highest number of canings recorded in any one year was in 1954 when 227 adults received the punishment.

The level dropped back to 100 for the rest of the decade and almost disappeared in the 1960s.

But in 1973 magistrates found themselves forced to mete out canings under the controversial section 33 of the Public Order Ordinance.

The draconian statute, which was enacted during the riots inspired by the Cultural Revolution, decreed caning was the only alternative to a six-month custodial sentence for anyone convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.

Several magistrates and judges who witnessed canings as a result of their sentences were so appalled by what they saw they vowed never to inflict such a penalty again.

In one particular case in 1984 a District Court judge ordered nine strokes for a 16-year-old boy for breaking and entering.

By the ninth stroke the skin was broken and bleeding and the boy fell to his knees when he was released.

The judge said he was so shaken up that he promised he would never sentence anyone to be flogged again.