SCMP, October 17, 2002 One can lead a horse to water, but one can't force it to drink. Despite his relative youth, a 22-year-old should have no difficulty understanding the moral that one should take responsibility for one's acts. Many will feel that the 240 hours of community service that teen idol Nicholas Tse has been sentenced to perform, on top of the two weeks he has already spent behind bars, is not commensurate with the serious offence of perverting the course of public justice. After all, the man who claimed to be the driver of the car that he had crashed was jailed for four months, while the policeman who acquiesced to letting him off was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. In passing sentence yesterday, magistrate Allan Wyeth remarked that Tse's role in the crime was passive and the 14 days he had already served in prison had already delivered the star 'a loud and clear wake-up call'. He has a point. But Tse could have said no to those who offered to 'help' him by making arrangements for a bogus driver to take responsibility for the crash. Many will now have grave reservations about the message that the penalty meted out to Tse will give to the tens of thousands of his fans, many of whom are teenagers who see him as a role model. They may now think that getting someone else to take the blame for a 'minor' traffic offence is no big deal, especially for a star like Tse. What they will miss is the lesson that, while the most one could get for crashing a car is losing one's driving licence, trying to shift the blame and hide the truth is a serious travesty of justice. A jail term of two to three months for Tse would have been more appropriate. Glossary One can lead a horse to water, but one can't force it to drink (idiom) we can give someone an opportunity to do something, but we cannot force them if they do not want to do it In Chinese, we also have such an idiom. However, instead of horse, it is about another animal. Do you know what it is? Bingo! The answer is cow. commensurate (adj) to be in proportion to acquiesce (v) to agree to do what someone wants them to , reluctantly but without protest let someone off (phrasal v) to give someone a lighter punishment than expected, or no punishment at all passive (adj) subject oneself to a situation in which one does not take any action but let things happen loud and clear (adj) easily understood grave (adj) serious to mete out a punishment (v) to order someone to be punished in a certain way Discussion points - What is the point of punishment? Is it revenge for the victim? To deter others from similar crimes? Or to reform offenders? - Do you think the 240 hours of community service, plus two weeks in custody, are sufficient punishment for Tse? - Is it fair to compare Tse's sentence with the other two co-defendants, who were sentenced to four and six months in jail? Why?