Fines contravene rules
Authorities will crack down on penalties paid by families flouting strict family planning rules after a National Audit Office probe found 1.6 billion yuan (US$260 million) in fines had been levied illegally, state media reported. The audit office’s investigation of 45 counties in nine provinces and municipalities from 2009 to last year found 1.6 billion yuan in fines had been given out in contravention of the rules, newspapers said yesterday. The audit office found that problems included inaccurate reports of the number of extra children parents had, fees not successfully collected and officials handing out higher fines than they should have.
Couple jailed for maid abuse
A couple were jailed on Wednesday for a shocking string of attacks on their Indonesian domestic helper, including burning her with an iron and beating her with a bike chain. Tai Chi-wai, 42, and his 41-year-old wife, Catherine Au, subjected their former maid, Kartika Puspitasari, to a two-year campaign of violence and humiliation, which also saw her assaulted with clothes hangers and a paper cutter, the court heard. Judge So Wai-tak, who described the attacks on Puspitasari as “repeated and continual,” sentenced Tai, a salesman by profession, to three years and three months in prison for one count each of assault causing actual bodily harm and wounding. Au, a hospital assistant, was given five-and-a-half years for two charges of assault causing actual bodily harm and four counts of wounding, three of them with intent. However, he found them not guilty of the charge of false imprisonment over the allegation that the couple left the maid without food or water after tying her to a chair and forcing her to wear a diaper while they went on a five-day vacation.
Canadian couple missing
Authorities were searching yesterday for a Canadian couple who were believed to have died when their rental van went over a cliff on a rugged road. Police said they were trying to recover the bodies of 25-year-old Connor Hayes and 24-year-old Joanna Lam off the Haast Pass road, which connects the west coast of the South Island to the rugged interior. The couple were last seen on Sept. 10 in stormy conditions. Parts of their wrecked rental van were found this week in the Haast River, about 80m below the road. Inspector John Canning said the chances they survived were “extremely remote.”
Child pageants banned
The senate voted 197-146 on Wednesday to ban beauty pageants for children under 16, in an effort to defend children’s — especially girls’ — rights. Anyone who enters a child into such a contest would face up to two years in prison and 30,000 euros (US$40,590) in fines, according to the measure. The legislation must go to the lower house of parliament for debate and another vote.
EU police officer shot dead
An EU police officer in Kosovo was shot dead yesterday in a northern, mainly Serb region where tensions are rising over a fragile accord between the Balkan country and its former master Serbia. It appeared to mark the first fatality suffered by the EU mission, known as EULEX, since it was deployed in 2008 after majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia with the backing of the West. The officer, whom EULEX did not identify, was killed when two EU vehicles “came under fire from unknown persons” at around 7:30am near Zvecan, EULEX said in a statement. The vehicles were part of a regular morning rotation from a border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia, one of two main border gates in the north that have been the focus of previous clashes between ethnic Serbs and NATO peacekeepers.