An elderly woman was fined HK$2,000 after being found guilty of stealing a life jacket from aboard a Cathay Pacific aircraft on Monday. According to the woman, she had believed that the flotation device was a souvenir for passengers to take home.

The 64-year-old from northwest China’s Shaanxi province had flown into Hong Kong from Taipei on Monday, en route to Xi’an. As she was passing through the security counter, officials found a Cathay Pacific life vest worth HK$360 hidden in her luggage. The matter was reported to the police and she was later arrested.

woman shaanxi life jacket
Woman who stole life jacket.

The defendant pleaded guilty at the Tsuen Wan Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday and said that she was unaware that it was against the law to take the life jacket, as she believed it to be a souvenir and planned to take it back to Xi’an.

At one point, the defendant fainted in court. She later told the magistrate that her blood sugar was low and expressed her wish to return to Xi’an.

cathay pacific
A Cathay Pacific aircraft. Photo: Wikicommons.

The magistrate, Cheang Kei-hong, did not believe that the defendant had been ignorant of the law, and was of the opinion that she was simply greedy. Cheang also said that the gravity of the crime lay not in the monetary value of the life vest, but in the fact that, had the airline company not discovered that it was missing, a passenger’s life could have been in danger in the event of an accident.

When the counsel for the defence rebutted saying that the airline is responsible for checking the number of life jackets, the magistrate responded that “even the airline couldn’t predict that someone would be so out of line as to steal a life jacket,” Apple Daily reported.

The defendant was ordered to pay a fine of HK$2,000. When she explained that she had less than NT$100 (HK$24) on her, the magistrate said that if the defendant could not pay the fine within the day, she would be sent to jail for a week instead.

The defendant then managed to pay the fine with the help of her husband and was released in the afternoon, Oriental Daily reported.

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.