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2. Arson (Section 60(3) Crimes Ordinance)

Committing the offence of Criminal Damage by fire shall be charged as arson. (S.60(3) Crimes Ordinance)


Given that Hong Kong is densely populated, and residential and commercial premises are crowded, arson may more likely bring about grave consequences in the form of serious injuries, and loss of life and property. Therefore, arson has always been regarded by courts as a very serious offence for which a deterrent sentence is called for. A sentence of immediate imprisonment is considered customary and the practice of Courts in arson cases. The maximum sentence is that of life imprisonment (HKSAR v. Chong Yam Miu, Lucas [2020] HKDC 216)


 “Young offender”

The Court of Appeal held that when the court sentenced young offenders for arson, appropriate weight should be given to factors such as protection of the public, commensurate punishment, societal disapproval and deterrence; and cannot just focus on rehabilitation and reform. In general, in the view of the seriousness of an offence of arson, more weight should be put on the factors of protection, punishment, disapproval and deterrence rather than rehabilitation (Secretary for Justice v. SWS [2021] 1 HKLRD 1136, [55]).


“Relevance of the National Security Law”

Where arson is politically motivated and is intended to coerce the HKSAR and PRC Governments or any international organization or intimidate members of the public into pursuing a specific political agenda, it qualifies as a Terrorist Activity under Part 3 of the National Security Law and an offence under Article 24.


Article 24 stipulates the different ways in which an offence under Article 24 is established, including inflicting serious violence on others, or sabotaging public infrastructure such as transport, electricity, water or gas facilities, telecommunications and the internet. A catch-all provision in 24(5) covers dangerous activities which may seriously jeopardise public health, safety or activity. As from Article 24(2), arson is envisaged as a means of achieving the above, where the arson under the National Security Law causes serious bodily injury, death or significant loss of public or private property, a defendant is liable to a sentence of life imprisonment or imprisonment of at least 10 years. In other cases, the sentence will be a fixed-term of imprisonment of 3 to 10 years.