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Patten may appeal for clemency on sentence
By Hedley Thomas
GOVERNOR Chris Patten may appeal for clemency for a Hong Kong youth sentenced by a Singapore judge yesterday to 12 strokes of the cane.
The family of 17-year-old Shiu Chi-Ho, who was found guilty of four charges of spray-painting cars with American Michael Fay and others, will be consulted by the Hong Kong Government before any decision is made.
"We will wait until we have a formal report and have taken advice before we react," a spokesman for Mr Patten said last night.
Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing urged supportive and sympathetic action by the Government on what she described as a cruel punishment.
"When Hong Kong people get into trouble overseas, of course they look to the Government for help, but it is doubtful whether anything can be achieved because the American protests [over Fay's sentence] have had absolutely no effect," she said.
A light cane or rattan of a type approved by Mr Patten's predecessor, Lord Wilson, was used for the last flogging in Hong Kong less than four years ago on a teenage illegal immigrant found in possession of an offensive weapon.
The boy's hands were secured by leather straps to a wooden platform and he was made to bend over with his trousers down as he was flogged across the buttocks in the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre.
The cane, efficiently wielded by a Correctional Services Department physical education officer chosen for his strength, split the skin with every lash.
The usual method involved the cane being flicked so that it cut deeper, a CSD insider said yesterday. A doctor looked on in case the boy needed reviving from fainting.
"The canings were usually carried out in a screened-off area near the entrance to the dining hall at the jail. The physical instructors were trained for the job," he said.
Because the boy was 16, his punishment did not exceed 12 strokes "administered on the breech [buttocks] of the offender as soon as practicable", according to the Corporal Punishment Ordinance. If he had been aged under 14, he would not have been given more than six strokes.
After the flogging on August 3, 1990, the boy left the territory with a painful and permanent reminder of Hong Kong justice. A short while later, the controversial Corporal Punishment Ordinance was repealed.
Hong Kong Magistrate Denis D'Almada Remedios said: "It wasn't a decision you could reach easily [as a sentencing judge] and I do agree with the repealing of the ordinance."
Mr D'Almada Remedios ordered canings for a number of offenders including five strokes for two teenage brothers.
When the two brothers appealed against the caning order, Chief Justice Sir Ti Liang Yang upheld the sentence, saying that caning was imposed for bad cases of violence.
Hong Kong victims of canings have spoken of how they could not sit down, sleep, nor resume a healthy life for months afterwards because of the physical and mental scarring.
Tony Pang Shing-look, chief executive of the Society for the Rehabilitation of Offenders, said yesterday he had witnessed the suffering of men and boys caned before the ordinance was abolished.
"Blood seeped from their wounds for a long time afterwards, and of course the punishments had a psychological effect as well," said Mr Pang.
Mr Pang, who supported calls for the end of caning in Hong Kong, said the Singaporean Government had every right to mete out canings under its criminal justice system.
Criminologist Harold Travers, of Hong Kong University, said the punishment was inhumane and there was no evidence to suggest it was an effective deterrent to offenders.
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