There are so many issues raised by the case brought against a self-proclaimed Taoist practitioner accused of duping a young model into having sex, and by the verdict and judgement delivered against him, that it is difficult to know where to start. But there is no doubt in my mind that the Hong Kong legal system (normally so sound) has made a complete ass of itself in this case.
In very brief summary the facts of the case seem to be that a young aspiring model was having no luck with her career and so she approached a self-proclaimed Taoist” master” to see if he could help. This “master” persuaded her to engage in rituals which involved him having sex with her on a number of occasions. And this happened multiple times before she apparently started wondering whether she had been duped. After she was found to be pregnant and had an abortion the police were somehow involved (it’s not clear to me how) and the Taoist “master”, Au Yeung Kwok-fu, was arrested.
The law under which he was charged (the Crimes Ordinance, Chapter 200, Section 120, Procurement by False Pretences) says this:
(1) A person who procures another person, by false pretences or false representations, to do an unlawful sexual act in Hong Kong or elsewhere shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for 5 years.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “pretence” (藉口) or “representation” (申述) includes a pretence or representation relating to the past, the present or the future and any pretence or representation as to the intention of the person using the pretence or representation or any other person.
My first issue is that this seems to be a terribly drafted law. The word “unlawful” just seems to be wrong. The act which caused Au Yeung to be charged was not unlawful per se – it was sexual intercourse between two consenting adults; that is a lawful sexual act. The intent of the law seems to be to make the obtaining of consent by false pretences or false representations to be an offence. Moreover, even allowing for the terrible drafting, the law itself seems to criminalise a significant proportion of sexual activity which goes on in the world. Anyone who has ever got someone into bed on the promise of “of course I will love you forever” when in fact having no such intent is liable to go to jail for up to 5 years.
And in this case, the defendant made representations relating to the future that if the model carried out these rituals then her career would improve. I have seen no reports that he promised any particular timescale, and since he was arrested within only a few weeks of the alleged offence it seems to me impossible to demonstrate “beyond reasonable doubt” that the representations were false. In fact I have no doubt that were the model to remove herself from the cloak of anonymity which the judge imposed and offer her story and pictures on the open market then her career would improve substantially and she could make a very significant amount of money. Were this to happen then clearly Au Yeung’s representations would have become true and he could no longer be guilty of making “false representations”. He would, therefore, have to be released, and could quite reasonably sue for false arrest and imprisonment.
In a non-sexual field, procuring money by false pretences is also an offence. And yet religious ministers are somehow allowed to link donations (or “tithes”) to their church/temple/mosque/whatever to the achievement some sort of “afterlife” in “heaven”. If that isn’t procuring money by false pretences then I don’t see how this case can be procuring sex by false pretences.
The final worrying aspect of this case is the fact that the judge, Stanley Chan Kwong-chi, in his ruling brought in his own irrational superstitions and beliefs, positioning them as somehow better than those of Au Yeung and the model. This is utterly, utterly wrong. As reported by The Standard:
The judge said any religion that aims to help people will not use sex as a method to pray for blessings. “If one claims so, it is heresy or a cult, using crooked theories to satisfy one’s lust,” he said, adding it is not wrong to be superstitious.
“The victim was lured into having sex nine times, getting pregnant in the process, which resulted in the loss of a human life,” the judge said.
The judiciary should not be in the business of declaring one set of irrational superstitious beliefs (also known as “religions”) to be any better or worse than any other. Consenting adults should be able to believe whatever they want, and do whatever they want as a consequence (including sexual things), so long as it has no negative impact on third parties.
Moreover, the judge also seems to be imposing what I suspect to be his own religious beliefs on the matter of abortion. The abortion was legal – it is not the place of the judiciary to make moral judgements.
And finally, the judge apparently said “Some may also say the defendant is facing a calamity of his own making as nobody escapes the judgement of heaven”. Wrong, wrong, wrong! A judge who allows his judgements to be coloured so strongly by his personal irrational and superstitious beliefs has no place on the bench. In my opinion this case should be rapidly thrown out on appeal on the multiple grounds touched on above, and Mr Stanley Chan Kwong-chi should be looking for a new job – he is a disgrace to the good name of the Hong Kong judiciary.