Legal experts are calling for tougher penalties for people who call in bomb threats, as prosecutors Wednesday sought a prison term of more than five years for a man whose hoax call caused a Shenzhen Airlines flight to make an emergency landing in August.
Xiong Yi, a 29-year-old resident of Dongguan, South China's Guangdong Province, told the airline that explosives had been planted on board a Shenzhen Airlines flight and would detonate 45 minutes after takeoff, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The flight from Xiangyang, Hubei Province, to Shenzhen made an emergency landing in Wuhan on August 30. Police searched the plane for three hours before it was cleared to continue its flight.
Prosecutors said the hoax cost the airline 205,771 yuan ($32,923).
Xiong, who has admitted his guilt and pleaded for a sentence of less than five years, said he made the threat in an attempt to stop a creditor who he thought was on the flight.
Xiong's lawyer Du Rui suggested his client should not face a longer sentence because he committed a victimless crime.
"Although it seriously disturbed the public order, it did not cause serious consequences," Du told the Global Times. "It took the police no more than three hours to verify the bomb threat was false."
"The passengers only heard of the threat after they got off the plane," Du said, adding that the public was also immediately informed by the media that the threat was a hoax.
Du also noted that the airlines' loss was not huge and it had not filed a civil lawsuit against Xiong.
However, Liu Tao, a law professor with Chinese People's Public Security University, told the Global Times that a sentence of more than five years was appropriate.
"Making a threatening call is very simple to do, but will result in a huge economic loss," Liu said, adding that tougher sentencing will act as a strong deterrent.
The maximum sentence for such a crime is 15 years.
Most law enforcement authorities treat people who make bomb threats too lightly, sometimes only detaining them for a few days or imposing a fine, Hong Daode, a law professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, said Thursday.
"People who make these types of calls should be charged with a criminal offence, not just given administrative punishment," said Hong.
According to the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily, five Chinese airlines including Air China and China Southern received six bomb threats between August 29 and October 9.
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