An assistant taxation officer in Hong Kong has been sentenced to 12 months of probation, after he pleaded guilty to criminal intimidation by threatening to kill then-chief executive Carrie Lam in emails to government departments.

Eastern Magistrates' Courts
Eastern Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Principal Magistrate Ada Yim on Monday imposed a one-year probation order on defendant Joseph Lai at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts, after the 51-year-old admitted that he committed three counts of criminal intimidation in March this year.

Lai was said to have sent emails to the Hospital Authority and the Immigration Department, which contained repeated threats to kill Lam with a kitchen knife and bomb the government headquarters and the Immigration Department.

Following his arrest, the tax officer told the police that he sent three emails to the government because he was “very angry” and “did not like” Lam’s Covid-19 policies, according to local media reports on previous hearings. Lai said he found the government department emails online, and he only wished to “complain” to Lam and make his grievances known.

Hong Kong saw its fifth and deadliest wave of Covid-19 peak in March, during which more than 1 million residents recorded infections, causing over 9,000 related deaths. At the time, Lam’s government rolled out what it described as the most stringent set of anti-epidemic policies, including banning direct flights from a number of “high-risk” countries and barring a list of designated businesses from operating.

Carrie Lam 25th handover anniversary
Chief Executive Carrie Lam. File photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

In handing down her sentence, Yim described Lai as having deficiencies in his way of venting emotions and his interactions with other people, saying there had been reports of similar outbursts before the case. But the court believed a probation order would be the most suitable form of punishment, saying Lai had been given a chance to reflect on his wrongdoing after being remanded in custody for two weeks pending his probation and medical reports.

“[The defendant] had a chance to earnestly understand that this way of venting emotions is very wrong,” Yim said.

The principal magistrate told Lai to accept counselling and abide by other additional terms set by his probation officer. He could face custodial punishment if he breaches the law again, or if he violates his probation terms, Yim warned.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.