A Hong Kong university student has filed an appeal after a Shenzhen court sentenced him to a seven-year jail term for smuggling 12 replica guns across the border.

The Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court ruled that the defendant did not have enough evidence to prove that he had been deceived into smuggling the items, reported Chinese newspaper Guangzhou Daily. The case came to light following mainland media coverage on Wednesday.

Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court
Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court.

The 23-year-old defendant surnamed Fok was arrested by Shenzhen customs in July 2016 after helping a high school classmate carry HK$500 worth of goods across the border. He told the court that his classmate had introduced the items as “electronics”.

Fok was charged with, and convicted of, smuggling weapons. His defence lawyer told the court he should have been handed the lesser charge of smuggling ordinary goods, as he did not realise the items were guns – an argument which was rejected.

The lawyer added that he was merely an accomplice, not the mastermind behind the case of smuggling.

A student at the City University of Hong Kong, Fok took on various part-time jobs because of his poor background, reported Guangzhou Daily.

Aside from his jail sentence, he was also handed a monetary fine of RMB 20,000 (HK$22,600). Local paper Ming Pao reported that he has filed an appeal.

wargame paintball
Replica gun shop in Mong Kok. File photo: Imgwgurotnral via Wikimedia Commons.

A number of Hongkongers have been arrested and jailed in Shenzhen for smuggling replica guns in recent years. In March, the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court began a retrial for a Hongkonger also sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for smuggling after a higher court ruled that – in the original judgement – the “facts were not clear, and evidence was not sufficient.”

See also: Shenzhen court begins retrial for Hongkonger sentenced to 7 years for smuggling BB guns

Hong Kong’s Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance stipulates that replica guns must have a maximum muzzle energy no higher than 2 joules.

In mainland China, the limit since 2008 has been 1.8 joules.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.