A pro-independence student was convicted on Wednesday of possessing an imitation firearm. He was arrested last December after bringing an air gun to a protest near the Legislative Council demonstration area.

Lau Hong, 16, said the gun was meant for self-defence against anti-independence protesters. Pro-democracy lawmakers and activists were nearby protesting the proposed changes to the council’s Rules of Procedures.

Lau Hong
Lau Hong. File photo: Screenshot.

Magistrate Veronica Heung convicted Lau on Wednesday. He will be remanded in custody until September 12, when the court determines sentencing.

The magistrate sought multiple reports on Lau, including those from a rehabilitation centre, detention centre, training centre, the probation service and the Young Offender Assessment Panel.

At trial, Lau told the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts that he bought the toy gun from a newspaper stand in the first half of 2016 and it was worth around HK$30.

eastern law court
File photo: Eastern Law Courts Building.

He said he often brought the toy gun with him for self-defence, and although he opposed the rule changes at the Legislative Council, the gun was unrelated to the December protest.

Louise Ng, a police forensic firearms examination expert, said at the hearing that the air gun’s size and the energy of the plastic balls that it shoots were within the legal parameters of the law. She said the gun’s shape was common and could be commonly bought at stores.

The prosecution argued that Lau intended to threaten or attack other people at the protest site with the air gun. They said the case amounted to more than self-defence and could have caused a breach of the peace.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.