Some very different examples of justice
Like many people, I often fail to see the justice of Hong Kong justice.
It is often the case that high-ranking civil servants escape jail even if they were found deliberately to have defrauded the government to the tune of millions. But ordinary people, out of momentary greed and without premeditation, often get tough sentences for theft or fraud involving far less money.
Take, for example, the case of Leung Chiu-ping. A controller at the government's logistics department, the 56-year-old had his eight-month jail term suspended over two years yesterday after pleading guilty to cheating the government out of HK$4.2 million in monthly rental allowances and mortgage down-payments over 10 years.
It's interesting to compare the sentencing so far of three culprits in the spilling of cash worth HK$15.23 million from a G4S security van in Wan Chai on Christmas Eve last year. All took far less money than Leung did.
A 41-year-old recycling industry trader was jailed for five months in January for snatching HK$161,500 in the cash-spill incident. In the same month, a cleaner, 68, was given a suspended sentence of one month for stealing HK$8,000. An electronics engineer who took half a million from the spill was sentenced to serve 240 hours of community service last month.
Now it would be an understatement to say that defrauding the government over a period of 10 years required a good deal of deliberation, premeditation and planning. But in those three theft cases involving the cash spill, the culprits got out of bed like any other day. The spill was completely unexpected so that greed momentarily clouded their better judgment.
In 2013, former development secretary Mak Chai-kwong was found guilty of conspiring with his "lifelong" friend, Highways Department assistant director Tsang King-man, to defraud the government of HK$560,000 in housing allowances. Both civil servants were sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for two years.
It seems senior civil servants often receive lenient treatment from judges who recognise their "public service". Well, it's not like they weren't already paid a high salary with lots of perks most of us can only dream of.