A Hong Kong student pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after running a business that performs animal sacrifices for clients with romantic problems.
Tong Cheuk-him, 19, pleaded guilty to two counts of cruelly ill-treating animals, one count of attempting to do so and six counts of conspiracy to commit the offense on Monday.
The vocational student learned “witchcraft” on social media while pursuing a sports science diploma at VTC Youth College. He created an Instagram account for his “fortune-telling” business in August 2021 and offered services such as the “love ritual” and “break-up ritual.”
The “love ritual” involved slashing a small animal with a knife to drain their blood to improve his clients’ luck in romance. The “break-up ritual” aimed to put a curse on a couple requested by the client while performing a similar procedure.
An animal welfare supporter learned that Tong performed each ritual for a payment of no less than 15,000 Hong Kong dollars (approximately $1,912) and reported him to the police. He reportedly earned about 118,600 Hong Kong dollars (approximately $15,114) for his “violent and cruel” ceremonies on animals such as rabbits, frogs and mice between July 25, 2021, and August 11, 2021.
He was arrested in a sting operation at Tsuen Wan West MTR station, according to police. Officers seized small animals, including a rabbit and five mice. They also found a 26-centimeter dagger, tarot cards, amulets and incense.
Tong told the police that he received six to seven ritual requests. He recalled stabbing two frogs in the head and decapitating a mouse in August 2021 in exchange for 20,000 Hong Kong dollars (approximately $2,549) from two unidentified women.
The police have traced down three female clients and charged them with taking part in a conspiracy to hurt animals. Choi Ching-ning, a 25-year-old beauty salon receptionist, pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges. Kwok Wan-hei, a 29-year-old saleswoman, and Lau Wing-ki, a 32-year-old beautician, asked for more time to consider their pleas.
“The method used to kill the animals was brutal, violent and gory,” Magistrate Andy Cheng Lim-chi said. “A civilized society will not tolerate the taking of small animals’ lives.”
Tong is currently serving time at a rehabilitation center for participating in an unlawful assembly protest in 2019. His sentencing is set for June 14. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, animal cruelty is punishable for up to three years in prison.