Zhou Xuan thought he was unfairly treated when he was jailed for 11 years for beating up a bus passenger and stealing HK$10. Zhou was also fined 1,000 yuan and deprived of his political rights for three years by a Guangzhou district court late last month. His accomplice, Zhou Zhike , received the same sentence. 'This was only my first theft and we only stole $10. Isn't the 11-year term too heavy?' Southern Metropolis News quoted Zhou Xuan as complaining. But the judge in the case said he was only following the latest guidelines issued by the Supreme People's Court to supplement Article 263 of the Criminal Law. The guidelines say the use or threat of violence in theft, fraud and snatching on public transport would be 'converted to robbery', with perpetrators facing minimum 10-year jail terms, ranging up to life sentences or even the death penalty, plus fines or the confiscation of property. However, general robberies - outside the eight situations stipulated in the law - would attract jail terms between three and 10 years, plus fines. Ong Yew-kim, research fellow at Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said the ruling reflected 'loopholes' in the legal guidelines and Article 263. 'There is nothing wrong with the judge as he ruled in accordance with the law, which was unclear and wrong,' Mr Ong said. He said the legal guidelines, which were released in June, did not clarify Article 263 on things like the amount involved, the intention, the means and the consequences of robberies on public transport. 'So robbing someone of a fen [a cent] or 1,000 yuan will result in the same jail term of [at least] 10 years. People will feel it's unfair,' he said, adding that it would encourage robbery for higher amounts. Mr Ong said the stiffer sentences for public transport robbery, as opposed to street robbery, reflected the prevalence of the crime, but the Supreme People's Court should stipulate the different criteria - such as the amount stolen - for a 10-year jail term. Chen Xingliang , a prominent criminal law expert and deputy dean of Peking University's law school, said judges, lawyers and the accused often complained to him that penalties under Article 263 were too heavy. He said Article 263 should be revised to reflect the severity of the case, as reflected in injuries, fatalities and the amount stolen. 'Only a revision of the criminal law will do. But it will take years,' Professor Chen said. Fu Hualing , associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said it was difficult to say whether a law was wrong when different countries had their own crime problems. 'Personally, I feel 10 years is too much. But on the mainland, no matter how much it involves, when it comes to taking property with violence, it is robbery,' Dr Fu said. 'The robbers do not know how much money you have when they rob you. It's a matter of luck whether they get $10 or 1,000 yuan.' Wang Dawei , professor of Police Studies at Chinese People's Public Security University, said a 10-year sentence might not be a heavy penalty given the prevalence of robberies on public transport and the violence involved. 'In robbery cases, it is not only violating a person's property rights but also his personal rights by physically attacking him,' he said, adding that two-thirds of the criminal cases in Guangdong involved stealing and robbery. 'A robber may hit you on the head and find you don't even have a cent. But the sentence should still be heavy even if he did not get a cent, because that hit could have killed you,' Professor Wang said.