Hong Kong's Mr Big may face firing squad

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The Independent Online
SHARP-SHOOTERS have been placed on the rooftops for the trial of Cheung Tze-keung, Hong Kong's most wanted criminal, in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. Police guards are wearing bullet-proof jackets, and movement around the city courthouse has been restricted.

Cheung, known as "Big Boss" and "Big Spender", is accompanied by 35 members of his gang, who were probably the most dangerous and ruthless group of thugs operating in Hong Kong and southern China.

Final submissions began on Monday for the trial in the capital of Guangdong province. But there is little doubt of the outcome. Cheung and his senior associates are almost certain to be shot by a firing squad, possibly at a public execution.

Cheung's lawyers want him to stand trial in Hong Kong where the death penalty has been abolished. But Hong Kong authorities are happy to see the matter handled by Chinese colleagues, who have been accused of using torture to obtain confessions. Protests from Amnesty International and local lawyers are having no impact.

A central charge in the case is that Cheung masterminded the kidnappings of two Hong Kong tycoons, in one case reportedly taking an pounds 80m ransom. Previously he specialised in armed raids on jewellery-shops, arming himself with a big enough cache of weapons to start a small war.

A film about Cheung hasbeen released but has been criticised as being less violent and intriguing than the real story.