A 20-year-old man who appeared in court for stealing a cat from a bookstore had his charges dropped by the prosecution on Friday. In court, the magistrate also raised questions about the condition the cat was kept in by its owners.

The man, surnamed Hui, a student at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, stole a 4-year-old blind cat named Fok Jai from North Point bookstore Sam Kee Book Co, which housed around 30 cats. His charge of theft was withdrawn by the prosecution at Eastern Magistrates’ Court. He was released on HK$1,000 on the condition that he observes good behaviour for a year, reported Ming Pao.

During the case, principal magistrate Bina Chainrai questioned how the small bookstore could house 30 cats and asked the police to look into whether it was a case of animal abuse.

The accused and Fok Jai.

Hui said that since May, he often visited the cats at Sam Kee whenever he was unhappy. On the day of the theft in July, Hui took possession of the cat. He realised later on that he could not take care of it and brought it to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

One of the many cats at Sam Kee. Photo: Alfred Wong via Facebook.

The magistrate asked Hui whether he knew that, if the SPCA could not locate the owner, the cat would have to be put down. Hui responded that he did know, but did not have the courage to return the cat to the owner.

The theft took place this July at Sam Kee Book Co, a bookstore popular with cat lovers. The crime was discovered the next day when staff at the bookstore went through CCTV footage and saw the cat being taken away.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.