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Boy, 16, made threat calls to airlines

(Shanghai Daily)

08:38, October 11, 2012

A 16-YEAR-OLD boy who made hoax calls that disrupted two Air China flights has given himself up to police.

The boy, surnamed Chen, was accompanied by his father when he surrendered himself to police in south China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday evening.

Earlier the same day, flights CA4111 from Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China, to Beijing and CA1578 from Nanchang in Jiangxi Province to Beijing were aborted shortly before take-off.

Flight crews evacuated passengers before a thorough check was made of both aircraft and their passengers and luggage.

It was several hours before the calls were deemed to be hoaxes and the flights eventually took off at around 8:15pm.

China Central Television reported that Chen had suffered from mental problems for nine years and had been admitted to Zhongshan City No. 3 People's Hospital three times.

Dr Hu Jiming said the boy "had apparent symptoms of psychosis." Hu said Chen didn't answer questions but just murmured: "I will kill myself. My whole family will commit suicide. I will light the fire to burn myself to death."

Deng Hanjun, a police official, said Chen walked into the police station with his head bowed and didn't speak a single word. During questioning, he acted "abnormally," Deng said.

Tuesday's incidents followed the forced landing of a China Southern Airlines flight from Istanbul to Beijing on Monday after a hoax call threatening a terrorist attack.

Hoax calls have become more frequent this year with more than 10 affecting domestic carriers.

In previous incidents, some callers made threats in protest at delays or poor service. Others were said to have tried to disrupt flights for personal reasons.

In one case, a tour guide claimed a bomb was planted on a plane in order to delay the flight, as the tourists he was in charge of were late.

In another case, a young man used the same method to stop his girlfriend from leaving him. Other cases are said to have stemmed from sheer boredom.

Aviation and legal experts are urging tougher penalties for people who make false threats that result in flight delays or cancellations, Xinhua news agency said yesterday.

The threats indicate a poor awareness of the law and disrespect for the public interest, as false threats disrupt normal flights and can result in panic, said Zhu Xiangdong, an industry expert.

More than 90 percent of the calls were made by people between the ages of 18 and 30, he told Xinhua.

"Many young people think no one can find out who makes the calls. But anyone who makes these kinds of calls will eventually be caught," Xinhua quoted Lin Quan, a civil aviation safety expert at the Civil Aviation University of China.

Zhang Wu'an, a spokesman for Spring Airlines, a private carrier, said company staff would immediately report threatening calls to authorities and an affected flight could choose to return or prepare to divert from its original route and land at another airport instead of its original destination.

Passengers and goods will be rechecked to make sure there are no safety threats before the plane takes off again, he said.

According to China's criminal and civil aviation laws, anyone who spreads false information to disrupt flights can be jailed for up to five years. If there are serious consequences as a result of hoax calls, the jail term can be more than five years.

In practice, however, such cases are dealt with leniently, as it is difficult to define the degree of consequence caused.

The fines paid by hoaxers are relatively small, legal analysts said.

Last month, a passenger was detained for 10 days and fined 500 yuan (US$80) after claiming to have a bomb just before his plane was due to take off from Sanya in south China.

The man said he made the claim for the amusement of others.

Zhang called for such passengers to be punished severely and put on a "blacklist" so that airlines could refuse to have them as passengers in future.

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