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Crime in Hong Kong

No lenient sentence for man who had sex with teenage boy, despite lawyer’s plea that Hong Kong laws discriminate against gay offenders

  • Yeung Ho-nam, 28, was sentenced to two and a half years after pleading guilty to two charges of anal sex with a 14-year-old boy
  • Yeung’s lawyer argued his client was discriminated against because heterosexual offenders serve less time for similar crime
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 7:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 2:35pm

A sex offender failed to persuade the High Court on Wednesday that he did not deserve a long jail term for having consensual sex with an underage boy just because he is gay.

Yeung Ho-nam, 28, was sentenced to two and a half years after pleading guilty to two charges of anal sex with a 14-year-old boy he met on the social media platform Instagram, two years more than what his lawyers expected him to be jailed for.

The boy, who cannot be named to protect his identity, was a willing partner and had even drawn up a “price list” for his sexual services.

Yeung’s barrister, Randy Shek Shu-ming, argued that his client was being discriminated against for being gay, and pointed out that heterosexual offenders who had sex with underage girls in similar circumstances were usually jailed for between four and six months only.

Test case for Hong Kong’s underage sex law

The court heard that after Yeung met X on Instagram, the teenager offered to be his “part-time boyfriend”, a euphemism for being paid to go out with him.

Yeung initially declined, and told X he should not sell his “body and soul”. But he later had sex with X twice between August and September 2017.

Their relationship was discovered after X’s aunt found a “price list” the boy had prepared for his proposed sex trade.

Under Hong Kong law, the maximum sentence for a man who has sex with a girl under 16 years old is five years’ imprisonment, whereas the maximum penalty for a man who has anal sex with a boy under 16 is life imprisonment.

Shek told the court on Wednesday that the wide difference in the maximum sentences for heterosexual and gay offenders was nothing short of discriminatory.

“There is no reason why they should be punished differently just because one is homosexual and one is heterosexual,” he said, pleading for a lenient sentence for Yeung.

His comments prompted Deputy High Court Judge Michael McMahon to wonder why the law had not been changed. “Times have changed. We all know that from reading the newspapers,” he said.

In sentencing Yeung, the judge said Yeung clearly knew that X was underage, even though he did not coerce the boy into having sex.

Underage sex and the city: why Hong Kong needs to get a grip

The judge refrained from handing down an even harsher sentence after considering that the boy had consented to having sex, even though the act remained illegal under the law.

The apparent discrimination against gay offenders was the subject of a judicial review in September when Yeung Chu-wing, a volunteer from the sexual minorities rights group, Rainbow Action, went to court to argue that seven related laws in the Crime Ordinance were unconstitutional.

These laws cover homosexual anal sex, gross indecency by a man, and procuring a young person for intercourse, prostitution, buggery or other homosexual acts.

Lawyers from the Department of Justice had conceded that the law under which Yeung was charged was inconsistent with the city’s laws that protect Hong Kong people’s rights.

The court’s decision in that review, to be made by Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung, is pending.