SINGAPORE — As the Singapore government deliberated the fate of an American youth sentenced to a flogging for vandalism, a Hong Kong teen-ager was sentenced Thursday to twice the punishment, 12 strokes of a rattan cane, for his role in the spray-painting case.
Shiu Chi Ho, a 17-year-old 10th-grader, was also sentenced to eight months in jail and a $967 fine after being convicted of four counts of vandalism. His lawyer said he would appeal.
An international controversy erupted when the 18-year-old American, Michael P. Fay, of Dayton, Ohio, was sentenced last month to six strokes of the cane, four months in jail and a $2,230 fine in the vandalism case.
Fay received the lesser sentence in a plea bargain with prosecutors in which 56 charges were consolidated into two counts of vandalism, two counts of mischief and one count of possessing stolen property. Shiu, on the other hand, proclaimed his innocence and went to trial.
The caning is carried out by a prison official trained in martial arts and often induces shock. It can cause permanent scarring.
President Clinton has termed the sentence given Fay as "extreme," and the State Department filed a formal diplomatic protest, saying that while Fay will be permanently scarred by the caning, the cars were not permanently damaged.
Fay appealed his caning sentence, but the island nation's high court turned him down March 31. On Wednesday, he petitioned President Ong Teng Cheong for clemency. A spokeswoman for the president said Thursday that no decision had been reached on the issue.
The U.S. government and others maintain that the teen-agers were singled out for special treatment because the vandalism statute, which was enacted in the 1960s to combat political graffiti on public buildings, never before has been used in cases of spray-painting private cars. The Ministry of Home Affairs said Tuesday that such arguments are "absurd."
However, a photograph appeared in the government-controlled Straits Times newspaper Thursday showing a newly spray-painted car. It quoted police as saying that the new case had been classified as mischief, a lesser offense than vandalism that has no provisions for caning.
"I'm in a state of shock, this is just unbelievable," said Randy Chan, Fay's mother. "It proves a big point: that this has been unfair. (The caning) is not what's normally done here."
The Hong Kong teen-ager was at the center of the vandalism case because he was among the first two youngsters arrested by police, who had been on a stakeout for vandals. He was with the son of a Thai diplomat, who had diplomatic immunity and was released.
Shiu gave police the names of eight other youths, who were later arrested at their high schools. They included Fay, two Malaysians and another American, who is going to court next week.
Shiu maintained at his trial that his confession had been coerced by police who had punched and slapped him. Fay has made similar charges in a letter to his father in Dayton.
Shiu's parents are celebrities in Singapore: His father, Shiu Chung On, is drama director for the state-run Singapore Broadcasting Corp. and his mother is an actress.
In addition to the vandalism charges on which he was convicted Thursday, Shiu faces a further 38 counts of vandalism and mischief.