Sham Shui Po’s electronics flea market saw an increase in sales of laser pointers yesterday. This was in response to the arrest on Tuesday in the area of a university student leader for having several of the devices. The police branded the pointers “offensive weapons”.
Baptist University student union president Keith Fong Chung-yin was arrested on Tuesday after spending HK$4,200 on 10 laser pointers from a stall in Apliu Street. His arrest prompted hundreds to surround the nearby police station in protest.
Laser pointers have been used widely in recent extradition bill protests, apparently to confuse police officers and deter passers-by from taking photographs that might help identify protesters.
Ahead of a “stargazing protest” in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday, nine stalls in Apliu Street reported an increase in sales of laser pointers. Some said stocks of larger laser pointers had sold out, but smaller laser pointers, which they called “stargazing pens”, were still on sale.
“We only sell two types, and they are both only 1.6 milliwatts,” said one stall owner.
Referring to the laser pointers as “laser guns”, police said three officers needed medical treatment after protesters pointed beams at them.
At a press conference yesterday, police demonstrated how a laser beam could set a sheet of paper on fire when used at close range. South China Morning Post was not able to get the same result using a laser pointer from Apliu Street.
“Laser pointers, especially those with high power, can burn one’s skin and cause permanent injury to the eyes,” said Dr William Cheung Sing-wai, a former electrical engineering associate professor at the University of Hong Kong.
He said laser pointers used by teachers had a power range of less than 1 milliwatt, but even those could cause an eye injury.
Senior Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said “laser guns” were not considered prohibited weapons in the city.
But he said the laser pointers seized by police breached the Trade Descriptions Ordinance for failing to display energy levels or warning labels.