Man sentenced to 8 years in prison for fatal arson attack at Pak Tin Estate

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Justice Andrew Chan

26th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) A middle-aged unemployed man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for a tragic incident that resulted in one death and 11 injuries. The incident occurred at Pak Tin Estate, where the man, after consuming several cans of beer, made threats to set the entire estate on fire. He proceeded to ignite clothing within his unit, and despite leaving the premises with his girlfriend, thick smoke continued to spread, necessitating the arrival of the fire department. Tragically, one male resident on the same floor attempted to escape the smoke by climbing out of a window but tragically fell to his death. Additionally, 11 other residents required medical treatment. The unemployed man had previously pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter and arson with intent in the High Court. Judge Andrew Chan delivered the verdict, stating that the case involved arson in a public housing unit and warranted a deterrent sentence. Given that the incident occurred at midnight, the judge emphasised the foreseeable danger it posed to residents. The only mitigating factor in the case was the absence of readily combustible materials.

The defendant, Chan Kwong-yiu, aged 41, claimed to be unemployed and had a criminal record with 16 previous convictions related to property damage. The charges against him stated that on 10th September 2021, in Block 13 of Pak Tin Estate in Sham Shui Po, he unintentionally caused the death of a man named Lee Kwong and unlawfully destroyed or damaged property belonging to the Hong Kong Housing Authority. The charges further asserted that he disregarded the potential harm to others’ lives. The defence had previously argued that the defendant acted under the influence of alcohol, but the judge rejected this claim, stating that the defendant was not unaware of his actions due to alcohol consumption. The judge noted that the incident was triggered by a minor dispute and that the victim’s death resulted from attempting to escape the fire. Ultimately, the judge sentenced the defendant to eight years’ imprisonment for the charge of manslaughter and four years’ imprisonment for the charge of arson, to be served concurrently.

According to the case details, the defendant lived with his girlfriend, surnamed Cheng, in a unit on the 12th floor of Block 13 at Pak Tin Estate. The deceased, aged 34, resided on the same floor with his parents and younger brother. Around 1am on the day of the incident, the victim’s family noticed a fire in a neighbouring unit and sought refuge on the balcony. During this time, the victim partially leaned out of the kitchen window to breathe but tragically fell from the window. Firefighters extinguished the blaze around 3am and confirmed the victim’s death. Eleven residents, including the victim’s family, were taken to the hospital for treatment. A rescued neighbour reported hearing a male voice threatening to “burn down the entire Pak Tin Estate” that night. The building’s security guard saw the defendant and his girlfriend around 2am and was informed about the smoke in their unit before they left. The defendant was subsequently arrested at another residence in Shek Kip Mei Estate later that morning. During questioning, he admitted to arguing with his girlfriend, consuming three to four cans of beer, and igniting his clothing with a lighter inside the unit. The Housing Department has estimated the cost of repairing the building’s facilities to be over HK$201,000.