Clerk who posted sex photos avoids jail time

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 July, 2008, 12:00am

A logistics clerk who admitted publishing 83 photos of female stars in sex acts with entertainer Edison Chen Koon-hei was sentenced yesterday to two months in jail suspended for two years.

Kowloon City Court Principal Magistrate Andrew Ma Hon-cheung said he imposed a suspended jail term on Kwok Chun-wai because he committed the offence out of 'curiosity' and did not intend to cause harm to the celebrities.

Kwok is one of three men charged in relation to the celebrity nude-photos scandal that gripped the city early this year, and was the first one to be convicted.

The court heard that Kwok, 24, had downloaded 140 celebrity sex pictures from the internet and saved them to a file storage server.

He then posted 25 hyperlinks on a Hong Kong-based adult discussion forum between January 29 and February 6 to allow users to download the images.

Police arrested Kwok on February 10 at his Ngau Tau Kok home and 83 of the images were ruled obscene by the Obscene Articles Tribunal in April. Some of them showed oral sex, the court heard.

Kwok admitted three counts of publishing an obscene article at a hearing earlier this month, reversing a plea of not guilty he had entered in another court in June.

Mr Ma sentenced Kwok to two months' jail on each of the charges, suspended for two years. The terms were to be served concurrently.

The magistrate described Kwok's act as serious because it caused harm to the celebrities. But he said he believed Kwok did not intend to cause such harm or make money.

He also noted mitigation letters from Kwok's family and employers, who suggested he was a hard worker and was pursuing a part-time logistics degree at Caritas Francis Hsu College.

'I accept that apart from the harm he has caused in the offence, the defendant is a potential asset of Hong Kong,' Mr Ma said.

Kwok's counsel, barrister Ody Lai, said he had been motivated by an intense community interest that had already been sparked and a statement by the Emperor Entertainment Group in January claiming the pictures were fake.

Kwok's lawyer complained that the 24-year-old was made a 'scapegoat' in a case where he was not the source of the photos and it was unfair that other people who had posted the images online had not been prosecuted. 'Thousands of people circulate sexually explicit photos on the internet, but it was rotten luck that brought my client to court ... because his case involved celebrities,' said lawyer Wong Hok-ming outside the court.

The photos sparked a huge controversy in February when hundreds of explicit pictures of Edison Chen and female celebrities were distributed online.

The scandal attracted frenzied coverage in the Chinese-language media. The photographs were of Chen with purportedly Canto-pop star Gillian Chung Yan-tung, actress Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi, former actress Bobo Chan Man-woon, model- actress Rachel Ngan Wing-sze, former singer Candice Chan Si-wai, 2001 Miss Chinese International contestant Mandy Chen Yu-ju and Vincy Yeung Wing-ching, niece of entertainment tycoon Albert Yeung Sau-shing.

Edison Chen and Gillian Chung made public apologies, and faded out of the Hong Kong showbiz scene.

Chung's manager, Mani Fok Man-hei of Emperor Entertainment Group, declined to comment on the verdict yesterday other than to say: 'We hope the incident will be forgotten soon.'

The first man arrested in relation to the scandal, Chung Yik-tin, was freed on February 15 after charges against him were withdrawn.