A teenage student was convicted by a court on Wednesday of carrying an imitation firearm near a rally outside the Legislative Council last December.
Lau Hong, 16, was found guilty of a weapons offense even though the democracy activist claimed that he had carried an air gun only to protect himself from attacks by pro-establishment supporters.
On December 12, Lau was stopped by police in an area near the Legco complex in Admiralty where some people had pitched tents for a protest over Legco’s proposed changes to its rules of procedure.
A search of the student’s bag yielded an air gun, plastic bullets and a gun sight, prompting authorities to press charges against him.
Lau had been a member of a pro-independence group called Studentlocalism at that time, but has since quit the organization.
During a trial, the student activist told the Eastern Magistrates’ Court that he had carried the air gun just to defend himself in case of attacks, and that he intended no harm to anyone, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Lau said he had feared that he could face physical assault from groups who oppose Hong Kong independence.
To protect himself in case of clashes, Lau said he had decided to carry an air gun and some pellets. He claimed that he bought the air gun from a newsstand and the pellets from a stationery store.
However, Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han did not buy his story, questioning his intention of showing up at the rally.
She wondered why Lau still chose to attend the rally if he was concerned about his personal safety.
Dismissing Lau’s testimony, Heung said she believes the defendant actually planned to use the air gun to hurt people and put public safety at risk.
She then declared Lau guilty on the charge of possession of an imitation firearm.
Lau’s lawyer submitted more than 30 mitigation letters, including from the defendant’s family and his school principal, saying the teen was a good boy who had no intention of hurting others and that he had no previous criminal record.
The student activist merely made an impulsive mistake in carrying the imitation firearm, and deserves leniency, the defense lawyer argued.
However, the plea was rejected and the judge decided to hand out a guilty verdict.
Sentencing is scheduled for September 12, pending reports from parties such as a probation officer. In the meantime, Lau has been remanded in custody.
The young activist deems the charges brought against him as a case of persecution by authorities, RTHK quoted the defense lawyer as saying.
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