What Data Science & Law can tell about Hong Kong social issue?

One of the focus of my study is to use Data Science to understand real life problems. As I have a background in law, I decided to deploy Quantitative Text Analysis on Hong Kong criminal cases.

139 Theft Cases

I have analysed 139 criminal cases in 2018 in Hong Kong District Court’s criminal cases involving at least one charge in theft. The following is a word-cloud which shows the most frequent word generated from these 139 cases. 

(If you are familiar with judgments. These words will look very familiar to you because these are the most frequent words appeared from the 139 theft cases.)

Shum Shui Po appears frequently

One of the preliminary results is that the phrase “Shum Shui Po” appears at least 32 times in these 139 judgments. After checking the context of the keyword, I recognize that Shum Shui Po is mentioned because the theft happened in Shum Shui Po, or the defendant lived in Shum Shui Po, or that the stolen property was sold in Shum Shui Po. 

It is an interesting fact because the public safety issues of Shum Shui Po has been more apparent in these years. Shum Shui Po is one of the poorest districts in Hong Kong. In recent years, there are complaints that there are “fake refugees” coming to Hong Kong, and many of them live in Shum Shui Po. From these 139 theft cases, it already reveals one of the pressing social issues in Hong Kong.

Average time for theft sentencing in District Court

I have recorded all the months of sentencing of all these theft cases. The result shows that the average sentencing month is 26 months. This is a reasonable time if you are familiar with law. In Hong Kong, magistrate could sentence only up to two years. Thus, it is reasonable to see that District Courts are trying cases which have sentencing more than two years.

Deport” is the distinguishing features of serious theft

Given that we know that the average sentencing month for theft in District Court is 26 months, my question is what distinguishes those “serious” theft from “not serious” theft? I have used a quantitative text analysis technique called “keyness analysis”. The idea is to find what keywords distinguish the judgments with sentencing below 26 months and above 26 months. Interestingly, the word “deport” appears to be the distinguishing features of “serious” theft.

The fact is that some defendants who commit theft also breach the deportation order, as a result causing a greater sentence. For example, in one case HKSAR v. ZAINUDIN (2018), a defendant who is supposed to be deported, used fake passport to enter Hong Kong and committed theft locally. He was finally sentenced for 41 months by the judge.

Government should review its Immigration Policy

This article intends to use another perspective to understand the problem of “fake refugees” in Hong Kong. First of all, I do not believe that a blanket attack to aslymn seekers in Hong Kong is legitimate. I have volunteered for NGO in Hong Kong which specializes in assistance to aslymn seekers in Hong Kong. I have heard horrible personal testimonies from some of the aslymn seekers. There are many who deserve protection in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, on the other hand, we have seen many crimes committed by “fake refugees”. The deterioration of law and order in Hong Kong is not imaginary. If the government continues to fail to secure our border and causes more “fake refugees” to enter Hong Kong, ethnic minorities will be those who suffer the most because their hard earned respect in Hong Kong will be tarnished by those “fake refugees” unrelated to them.  

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