A 25-year-old man was sentenced to four months’ prison at Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Court on Friday for possessing a spray bottle containing chilli oil during an anti-parallel trading protest last March.

The defendant, Lam Tat-wing, was earlier found guilty of being in possession of an offensive weapon in a public place. According to the charges, Lam had been taking part in an anti-parallel trading protest in Yuen Long on March 1 last year.

Defendant Lam Tat-wing. Photo: Apple Daily.

Deputy magistrate Pang Leung-ting said that a spray bottle was not something that was commonly found in shops, which showed that the defendant had not merely found it somewhere, and the offence was premeditated. He also said that more than 100 people took part in the demonstration and that if the defendant had used the weapon, it would have constituted a danger to the safety of many, Ming Pao reported.

Tuen Mun Law Courts Building. Photo: Stand News.

The lawyer for the defence argued that the defendant was only observing and not joining in the protests, and that chilli oil, unlike offensive weapons like knives, will not result in a permanent injury, Oriental Daily reported.

The lawyer submitted five letters of plea written by the defendant’s family and friends, and said the defendant would lose his security guard licence as a result of the ruling. He also asked the magistrate to take into consideration the fact that the defendant had been diagnosed with mild intellectual disability when he was a child.

The magistrate said that although people enjoy the freedom of protests, a society governed by law does not condone acts of violence during demonstrations. Therefore, he said, the defendant’s actions must be severely punished by the court.

The defendant was granted bail of HK$10,000 while awaiting an appeal. He was also required to report to the police three times a week, and not to leave Hong Kong.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.