I. What is Stalking?
There is currently no criminal offence of “stalking” in the laws of Hong Kong. Following the recommendations for an anti-stalking law by the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong in its October 2000 Stalking Report , a Consultation Paper on Stalking was issued by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in December 2011. Both papers recognize the need to criminalise stalking.
However, there is no comprehensive definition of “stalking” due to the various forms stalking can take. Contributors to the Law Reform Commission 2000 Report variously referred to stalking as “ the pursuit by one person of what appears to be a campaign of harassment or molestation of another, usually with an undertone of sexual attraction or infatuation” and “behaviour which subjects another to a course of persistent conduct, whether active or passive, which taken together over a period of time amounts to harassment or pestering”. The 2011 Consultation Paper proposed anti-stalking legislation which would be designed “ to protect the innocent from being pursued in any way that places the victim in constant fear or anxiety” .
Stalking can therefore involve any of the following:
- persistent pestering and intimidation through shouting, denigration, threats or argument;
- persistent silent, abusive or nuisance telephone calls;
- damaging property;
- keeping the keys of premises occupied by a former spouse or partner, and entering those premises without permission, particularly when some evidence of that entry is left behind;
- persistent following;
- persistent and unwelcome contact by phone, text, letter, WhatsApp or other information or communication technology;
- repeatedly calling the person to whom the conduct is directed at their home or place of work;
- declarations of love, often reinforced with threats of self-harm or suicide if the declared love is not reciprocated;
- threats of violence to the victim, or the victim’s family members, particularly when linked with demands for the victim to meet the stalker or reciprocate the stalker’s declared love, or both; or
- persistent sending of unwanted and unwelcome gifts to the victim’s home, place of work or school.
The common factor in stalking is therefore unwelcome, persistent and debilitating conduct directed towards the victim. The motive for such conduct is irrelevant.
Many stalkers, however, are obsessed with “love” for their victims. The stalker may make declarations of love, or threats of suicide or intent to inflict self-harm to attract the victim’s attention, particularly when the victim is known to be alone and afraid. These expressions of intent to inflict self-harm can be made directly, through fax messages, e-mail, social networking sites, or phone. Unwanted presents can be left at the victim’s home, workplace or school. This can lead to severe disruption in the victim’s personal and work life.