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Hong Kong courts

Student protester carried airgun for ‘self defence’, court hears

Sixteen-year-old was caught by police carrying an eight-inch air pistol and 1,000 pellets by police at the scene of demonstrations against the Legco rule book change last year

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 10:51pm

A secondary school student on trial for possessing an imitation firearm told a court on Tuesday that he carried the air pistol out of fear that he might be attacked for supporting Hong Kong independence.

Lau Hong, who first made headlines for brandishing a pro-independence banner during a photo opportunity with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last November, told the Eastern Court that he had seen his supporters attacked by anti-independence activists right outside his school.

Adding to his fears were news reports of fighting near his school and random brawls started by strangers on the streets, the 16-year-old said.

“I worry that I might be assaulted because I support independence,” he continued. “So I brought the pistol in self defence.”

On December 12 last year, Lau was intercepted by police while carrying an eight-inch air pistol – with a fully loaded magazine, a bottle of 1,000 yellow plastic pellets and an aiming light – near a pan-democrat protest against changing the Legislative Council’s rule book, which he attended.

The student was subsequently charged with one count of possession of an imitation firearm, an offence punishable by two years’ imprisonment. He has pleaded not guilty.

In defence, Lau explained that he had always played with air pistols and had begun carrying one regularly – even to school – since he bought it for some HK$30 from a newspaper stall in early 2016.

“It resembles a real gun,” he said. “So if I take it out I can scare away people who want to assault me. And if you fire the pistol it would cause discomfort to the skin … I hope my assailant would then stop the assault.”

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Beyond that, Lau said he had “absolutely no intention” of using the air pistol to break the law, assault, blackmail or intimidate people. He also claimed it was impossible for his air pistol of such low power to breach public peace. “This is a toy gun,” he added.

But acting senior public prosecutor Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan countered that Lau’s conduct had exceeded the acceptable limits for self defence as he questioned why the boy would need 1,000 pellets.

Meanwhile, Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han pointed out that Lau could still have brought chaos to public order if he flashed a toy gun in a crowd where there might be counter protesters.

She also asked why Lau joined the protest if he was worried about potential attacks.

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Lau replied: “Random assaults can happen anywhere, there’s no reason I should not go because of that.”

Defence counsel Poon Siu-bunn said in closing his case that the legislative intent behind the offence was not to trap innocent people carrying toy guns, but to penalise and deter possession of imitation firearms for illegal purposes – which was not what his client was doing.

“[Lau] is a student,” Poon continued. “He might have political aspirations, he might have participated in social movements, but that does not imply he is mature. We have to remember he’s just 16.”

Lau will hear verdict on August 22.