Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong man jailed after attempting to burn his landlord to death in subdivided flat fire

Court hears 63-year-old man, who feared he would be evicted, blocked only exit from flat with an iron bar and splashed oil on floor to try to prevent occupants from being able to escape burning home

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2018, 4:05pm

A man living in a subdivided flat, who attempted to burn his “contemptuous” landlord to death after he thought he would be evicted, was sentenced to four years and eight months in jail by a Hong Kong court on Friday.

Kwan Chor-leung, 63, had long been upset with his landlord’s attitude towards him for having to rely on social assistance and being “a lonely man with nothing to do”, his lawyer told the High Court on Friday.

The prosecutor said the case began with a clash on the night of February 5, 2017, when the landlord chided the accused for his personal hygiene and asked him to take a shower, causing Kwan to become upset.

Kwan set fire to his room in Vigor Industrial Building in Kwai Chung while the landlord and another tenant were asleep.

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He secured the flat gate with an iron bar from the outside as he escaped, and splashed peanut oil on the floor to prevent them from giving chase.

Both the landlord Wong Wah-chi, 72, and the other tenant Chen Zhijun, 54, made it out alive after fire services quickly arrived at the scene. Kwan was charged with two counts of arson with an intent to endanger life.

Mrs Justice Audrey Campbell-Moffat sentenced Kwan to four years and eight months in jail after he pleaded guilty to the charges on Friday.

The judge said the case was serious in that Kwan carried out the act of arson, knowing “two people were sleeping, and that he had secured the gate to stop them from escaping”. His room was also the only way out of the flat, she noted.

But she acknowledged that the incident was an isolated one without planning, which did not make Kwan a danger to the public.

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“This was a spur of the moment revenge,” she concluded, describing the event as a simple man irrationally reacting to his landlord’s wholly inappropriate comment.

In mitigation, his counsel Edwin Choy Wai-bond noted Kwan called the police to confess just minutes after he had set fire to the room.

“You can see that this man felt remorseful immediately,” he said.

He urged the judge to consider Kwan’s background – a man whose life fell apart after his long-term girlfriend died last year and he was kicked out of government housing. He said his client had been subject to contemptuous comments from the landlord.