The former publisher of Eastweek magazine has been ordered to pay HK$100,000 - a fivefold increase on the previous fine - for running a semi-nude picture of a kidnapped actress six years ago.
New Media Group, which pleaded guilty to publishing an obscene article, was fined HK$20,000 in Eastern Court on August 12 for publishing the photo of actress Carina Lau Ka-ling on the cover of Eastweek on October 30, 2002.
Magistrate Bina Chainrai, in a review hearing on her earlier sentencing requested by the government, said yesterday she believed the previous fine was inadequate and inappropriate for the case.
Deputy director of public prosecutions Kevin Zervos SC said the fine should be raised substantially in view of the deep repulsion at the picture, which clearly portrayed the young woman in distress and subjected to sexual abuse under terrible circumstances.
Mr Zervos said the 'disgusting and shocking' picture of the actress as a victim of crime had furthered the criminal interests behind it and trampled over her dignity.
He said the case should be ranked on an 'upper level of seriousness', which called for a harsher sentence. The charge carries a sentence of up to three years in jail and a maximum fine of HK$1 million.
Ms Chainrai said she agreed with the prosecution's submission yesterday that was not presented before her on the last occasion.
Separately, a five-day trial is set to open on December 8 for three former top executives of the magazine.
Then chief editor Mong Hon-ming, editorial specialist Wong Kim-man and executive editor-in-chief Lee Sin-sau, who left their jobs when the magazine was forced to shut down after printing the photo, have pleaded not guilty to publishing an obscene article.
Apologies were published in major newspapers three days after the publication. The picture was classified as obscene by the Obscene Articles Tribunal two days later.
New Media Group appealed against the classification, saying it was published to warn of such crimes. The appeal was dismissed.
The publication also sparked a public outcry, including a protest by celebrities against Eastweek and a number of other magazines that reprinted the image.
The abduction was said to be a punishment for Lau's refusal to take part in a film funded by triads.