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Outcry over spate of bomb hoaxes

By Sun Xiaobo (Global Times)

09:11, October 11, 2012

Aviation experts called on authorities Wednesday to better enforce the law and more severely punish those who disturb public order after five Chinese passenger planes received false bomb threats since early September on the Chinese mainland.

In the latest incident, a man surnamed Chen called the Zhongshan police station Tuesday, claiming that there were bombs on board two Air China flights. As a result, the two planes had to remain grounded and passengers were ordered to disembark, only to board again after hours of meticulous safety checks, the Beijing Daily reported.

Chen turned himself in accompanied by his father Tuesday night in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province. Preliminary tests by local doctors indicated that he suffers from a mental illness and a forensic appraisal is underway, China Central Television reported. The incident came only one day after a China Southern Airlines flight received a similar false bomb threat, which caused a delay of five hours.

"Many people don't know that threatening flights may violate the Criminal Law and hence take such actions very casually," Zou Jianjun, a professor with the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China, told the Global Times. "The punishment is too trivial in warning other people not to toy with civil aviation traffic orders," he said.

On September 25, a passenger also surnamed Chen claimed to have a bomb in his luggage as he was unsatisfied with safety check procedures at Beijing Capital International Airport. On September 9, a passenger surnamed Yu claimed that there was a bomb on the plane when the flight he took was about to take off from an airport in Sanya, Hainan Province. He later explained that he had just intended to brighten up the atmosphere. Both men were given a 10-day administrative detention, while Yu was ordered to pay 500 yuan ($79.60).

In an interview with the Beijing Morning Post, Zhang Qihuai, secretary-general of the Aviation Law Committee at the Beijing Lawyers Association, said that it is extremely rare to have so many false threat cases within such a short time period that caused huge losses to both passengers and airline companies.

According to China's Criminal Law, anyone who seriously disturbs public order by intentionally fabricating information invoking explosive, biochemical, radioactive or other threats can face criminal detention, public surveillance or even five years behind bars.

"To prevent such incidents from reoccurring, more efforts should be made to improve the public's knowledge of laws relating to aviation safety," said Zou, noting that the severity of the punishment should also be increased in order to crack down on the hoaxers.

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