1. Has Miss Wong committed any crime?

Throwing chalk duster at students constitutes an assault. A student who is the target has an apprehension of the application of immediate force. Whether or not the chalk duster hits them there is a common assault. Miss Wong either intends to hit them or is reckless whether they are hit or not. In the absence of any harm occasioned to the students the appropriate charge is “common assault “contrary to Section 40 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Chapter 212).

Ordering students who give wrong answers to smack each other’s hands is arguably common assault. Miss Wong is using the students as extensions of herself to inflict unlawful force. The students are under her control and are frightened of her. The students might be able to argue that the force they used was used under the duress of Miss Wong’s threats and the general intimidating situation she created in the class. Whilst the individual students might have a defence of duress by threats, that still leaves Miss Wong as the person who has brought about the application of unlawful force. A charge of common assault contrary to Section 40 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Chapter 212) would be appropriate for each act of slapping.

2. If Miss Wong does not use physical violence on her students, instead she only scolds her students fiercely, prohibiting them from going to washrooms, and asking them to beat each other on the palm, does Miss Wong’s conduct amount to child abuse?

There is no specific offence of child abuse in Hong Kong. It is, however, an offence contrary to Section 27 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Chapter 212) for a person over the age of 16 who has the custody, charge or care of a child or young person under that age to willfully assault, ill-treat, neglect, abandon such child in a manner likely to cause such child or young person unnecessary suffering or injury to his or her health.

The maximum penalty for the offence upon conviction on indictment is 10 years’ imprisonment. On summary conviction the maximum penalty is 3 years’ imprisonment.

Whilst the students are in Miss Wong’s classroom they are in her custody, care and control.

It will be a question of fact in each case whether Miss Wong’s acts of scolding the students, preventing them from going to washrooms and asking them to beat each other’s hands amounts to unnecessary suffering or injury to health. Account would be taken of the age and physical condition of the students concerned. Injury to health includes injury to mental health as well as injury to physical health. Medical or psychiatric evidence will be needed to confirm whether there was or was not suffering and the consequences of that suffering for particular students.

3. Miss Wong warns the students not to tell their parents about the way they have lessons. Does that amount to criminal intimidation?

Arguably there is an offence of “criminal intimidation” contrary to Section 24(c) of the Crimes Ordinance (Chapter 200). On the assumption the students have a right to attend the class, Miss Wong's threats amount to criminal intimidation as she is threatening them with an illegal act: exclusion from the class. Her intention in doing so is to prevent them from doing an act which they are legally entitled to do: telling their parents about what goes on in Miss Wong’s classes.

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