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Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong secondary student convicted of carrying air pistol near Legco protest

Court finds 16-year-old pro-independence activist guilty of possessing an imitation firearm, an offence punishable by two years’ imprisonment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 7:46pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 8:41pm

A pro-independence secondary school student was on Wednesday found guilty of carrying an air pistol metres away from a protest against changing the Legislative Council’s rule book last December, after a court rejected his self defence claims.

Eastern Court found Lau Hong, 16, guilty of possessing an imitation firearm, an offence punishable by two years’ imprisonment, as a magistrate concluded that he had carried an offensive weapon for the purpose of committing a crime.

But the student maintained in mitigation that he had no intention to harm anyone or cause any trouble. Lau said earlier that he had only taken part in the protest so he could take pictures, and he had a habit of carrying the air pistol all the time out of worry that he might be attacked for supporting Hong Kong independence.

The Secondary Five student first made headlines for brandishing a pro-independence banner during a photo opportunity with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last November.

A month later, on December 12, he was intercepted by police in Admiralty while wearing a hood and a face mask, and carrying a crossbody bag containing an eight-inch air pistol with a loaded magazine, a bottle of 1,000 yellow plastic pellets and five “Hong Kong is not China” stickers.

Some 50 metres away was a protest staged by the pan-democrats against an ongoing Legco debate to change its rules of procedure that would curb filibustering practices.

Hong Kong secondary student was caught with airgun at Legco rally, court hears

Defence counsel Poon Siu-bunn had argued during the trial that Lau was not carrying the air pistol to commit an offence or for a purpose that threatened public peace.

But that was rejected by Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han, who found his evidence unreasonable, contradictory and incredible, and sided with the “honest and reliable” police officers who testified for the prosecution.

The magistrate said while Lau may only be 16 he was capable of rational analysis with a mind of his own.

She said she could not understand why a person in fear of being attacked would expose himself to danger for seven hours at the unauthorised assembly, where anti-independence protesters might show up.

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Heung also noted that Lau appeared evasive when explaining why he was present at the scene as she questioned why he had taken just 10 pictures despite having been at the protest for hours.

“The defendant carried the air pistol for ready use,” she concluded. “He was not using it for self defence.”

Lau, who was taken away to jail to await sentencing on September 12, pending reports, has no prior criminal record.

More than 30 letters from Lau’s family, teachers and classmates were submitted in mitigation, revealing his other side as a kind and helpful boy who enjoyed reading and cared about current affairs.

Sentencing was adjourned pending reports from the Young Offender Assessment Panel, and on the suitability of probation, or being sent to a training, detention or rehabilitation centre as punishment.

Amendments to the Legislative Council’s rule book were passed on December 15.