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A Hong Kong court dismissed criminal charges on Thursday against a 12-year-old boy who admitted he sprayed protest-related graffiti at a police station and railway interchange on October.
He will not have a criminal record, but will need to follow a care or protection order that imposes a curfew. He must also take part in social activities as directed by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) for two years. His name cannot be revealed for legal reasons.
The boy pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal damage at a previous hearing on November 21, after a plain-clothes police officer spotted him vandalising the wall of Mong Kok Police Station and Prince Edward MTR station on October 3.
At West Kowloon court, Magistrate Pang Leung-ting ordered the removal of the charges against the child – a power granted to the Juvenile Court under section 15 of the Juvenile Offenders Ordinance – because of his good background and the less serious nature of the offences. The ruling means the boy avoids having a criminal record.
The defendant was the youngest to plead guilty in court among more than 980 suspects charged in protest-related proceedings since this year’s outbreak of demonstrations.
Police revealed on Monday that 6,105 people had been arrested over the anti-government protests, sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, since the first mass demonstration was staged on June 9. Of all those arrested, 2,430 people, or 39.8 per cent, were students.
The 12-year-old was brought to court after a police officer in plain clothing saw him at 7.30pm on October 3 in a mask spraying “damn rogue cops” with black paint on the wall of Mong Kok Police Station, alongside an obscenity about force families.
The officer tailed the boy to Prince Edward MTR station, where the minor sprayed “divine annihilation, free HK” on the wall of exit B1.
The boy was traced to his residence by the officer, who waited outside until 7am the following day, when the boy went to school in uniform.
When he was intercepted and taken back to his home, a police search found a bottle of black paint and clothing, which officers seized.
In interviews under caution, the boy, accompanied by his grandmother, said he committed the offences alone and was remorseful.
The boy confirmed to Pang that he had committed the crimes under the influence of other unknown protesters. He promised he would not be swayed by others in future.
Pang accepted the recommendation made by the SWD officer and placed him under a care or protection order with immediate effect.
Under the order, the boy is committed to the care of his grandmother, with whom he has been residing since his parents’ divorce.
During a two-year period, the boy must stay at home every night between 7pm and 6am, and follow the instructions of the SWD officer in joining various activities.
The court will hear a progress report of the boy on June 18 next year.