An elderly Chinese woman has been fined HK$2,000 after being found guilty of stealing a life jacket from a Cathay Pacific aircraft. According to the woman herself, however, she simply assumed that there was one kindly provided for every passenger to take home as a souvenir.
The 64-year-old from Shaanxi province was journeying to Xi’an from Taipei via Hong Kong. It was in Hong Kong as she passed through security that officials were surprised to find a Cathay Pacific life vest worth HK$360 stuffed in her luggage, reports Apple Daily. The matter was quickly reported to the police and she was promptly arrested.
Appearing in front of the Tsuen Wan Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, the woman pleaded guilty and reiterated that she was genuinely unaware that it was prohibited to take the life jacket, as she believed it to be a souvenir and planned to take it back to Xi’an.
During proceedings the woman even fainted in court. She later said that her blood sugar was low and expressed her simple wish to return to Xi’an, even without the jacket.
The magistrate, Cheang Kei-hong, was not at all impressed with the woman’s ludicrous story of blissful ignorance. He pointed out that the true 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, another passenger’s life could have been put in danger in the caes of an accident.
When the defense hit back saying it’s the airline’s responsibility to check 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.”
The woman was ordered to pay a fine of HK$2,000, although she claimed that she had just NT$100 (HK$24) on her person.
When the magistrate threatened her with a week of jail time instead, she coughed up the fine with the help of her husband and was released the same afternoon, Oriental Daily reported.
Chinese travellers have a very chequered history with air travel, having fights, throwing noodles at staff and opening doors, amongst other such crazy antics.
Of course, if the woman had just stuffed the life jacket down her pants, then everything would have been fine.
By Daniel Paul