Two Hong Kong teens charged over strangled kidnap boy

HONG KONG, Reuters

Two Hong Kong teenagers were ordered held without bail on Monday after being charged with conspiring to kidnap an 11-year-old boy who was found strangled after his family paid a ransom.

The accused, aged 15 and 16, were arrested on Saturday and are among the youngest suspects of a serious crime in Hong Kong in recent memory. They have not been named.

The two, driven to court in a heavily curtained van, were ordered to appear again on August 6. No pleas were taken.

Further charges may be brought, a police spokesman said.

A 12-year-old girl, who was arrested with the boys, has been released on bail while police consider whether to lay charges.

The boy was kidnapped in Kowloon district after leaving school on Wednesday. His body was found dumped under a flyover on Saturday after the arrests had been made. Preliminary tests showed he had been strangled just hours after his kidnap.

At the time of the arrests, police in mainland China arrested two men and a woman from Hong Kong after the father of the kidnapped boy paid HK$1.4 million (US$180,000) in ransom.

The amount, which was whittled down from an original demand of HK$6 million, was recovered by mainland Chinese police.

Beijing is expected to send the three adults to Hong Kong in connection with the case, unless they are wanted for any crimes in mainland China, a government source said. The kidnapping was the latest in a number of such crimes involving child victims in Hong Kong in recent years.

A six-year-old boy was kidnapped in June and his family paid a HK$950,000 ransom. In May, the 16-year-old son of a Hong Kong toy maker narrowly escaped a kidnap attempt.

In July 1999, the nine-year-old son of Taiwan actress and director Sylvia Chang was ferried between hotels in a suitcase during a 10-day ordeal before a HK$8 million ransom was paid.

A five-year-old was kidnapped in June 1999 while his father was buying food. His body was found a month later. The current case has highlighted a worrying trend of increasingly younger people, some only nine, being recruited into criminal secret societies, or triads.

There are some 15 active triads in Hong Kong and they run a gamut of rackets from prostitution, protection, loansharking and smuggling to illegal gambling.

Some triads have infiltrated local schools, where children face extortion or being forced to become gang members.

Newspapers splashed the latest kidnap case across front pages and urged the government to stop criminal elements from infiltrating schools.

“The government has to address the problem of increasingly younger people being involved in crime,” the Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao Daily said in an editorial.