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Hong Kong University Graduate Jailed for Stealing Books

6 Oct 2010

Here’s a sad story: The South China Morning Post reports that Jonathan Yeung Ka-kit, 34, has been sentenced to 16 months in jail for breaking into a secondary school on three separate occasions to steal books, which he then sold to pay off loansharks.

The case is emblematic of Hong Kong’s still-dejected economy and job market. The unemployment rate was at 4.7% in 2007, increased to 5.1% in 2009, but has since encouragingly dropped to a 20-month low of 4.2% in August of this year. Still, this number does not account for the ubiquity of low-pay salaries, especially a problem for recent university graduates.

From SCMP:

Defence lawyer Martyn Richmond said Yeung committed the offences out of desperation because he was unable to repay loan sharks money he had borrowed to support his ill and retired parents.

Passing a lenient sentence, the judge urged Yeung, who graduated from the Faculty of Art at the University of Hong Kong, to make use of his academic background to turn himself a “real filial son”.

Despite his academic qualification, the court heard Yeung earned no more than HK$5,000 a month as a financial manager at a consultant firm in Tsuen Wan and he resorted to loan sharks to pay for his parents’ upkeep after declaring bankruptcy last year.

Desperate times have called for desperate measures. My father, a part-time lecturer at Chinese University of Hong Kong, told me that his past students have relayed to him the difficulties of finding work. Often, the problem of a meager salary is compounded by increasingly exorbitant housing prices.

Hong Kong only passed a minimum wage law in July of this year, but will have to wait until November 2010 for Chief Executive Donald Tsang to propose a minimum wage level.

At least some lucky Hong Kongers are out there, reading the books Yeung sold and getting educated. But in this economic climate, that doesn’t guarantee anything.

[via SCMP]

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