25-year-old Huang Guanghao was sentenced to three years and six months of imprisonment at the District Court on Tuesday for smuggling 20 people of South Asian origin into Hong Kong this March.
Huang, who claimed to be a fisherman, was intercepted by marine police near the Hong Kong airport and was found to be smuggling 20 people aged 21 to 49, who were originally from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other South Asian countries.
Huang – who is mainland Chinese – was arrested and charged with one count of carrying illegal immigrants as the captain of the ship, and one count of endangering the safety of others at sea.
Huang picked up the 20 people in Dongguan in China, according to police investigations. All of them have since filed torture claims in order to claim asylum.
The smugglers did not use any form of lighting to guide the boat when travelling at night, which the police said was a common method used by smugglers to avoid being caught.
Huang said he would receive 2,000 yuan – or around HK$2,300 – as payment when the task was completed.
The district court magistrate Ko Wai-hung said the boat was equipped with a navigation system which showed that it was an organised effort. Ko asked the prosecution to provide information as to whether smuggling was becoming increasingly rampant and organised, in order that an additional penalty could be considered.
Marine Police Regional Crime Unit Detective Inspector Chan Man-wing told the media that “due to the increase in the number of illegal immigrants arriving in Hong Kong in recent years, we will actively cooperate with the Department of Justice to apply for a harsher sentence.”
Correction 6/10: A previous version of this article wrongfully made reference to human trafficking, as opposed to smuggling.