A pro-independence student has been given an 18-month probation order for possessing an imitation firearm after he was arrested with an air gun near a protest last year.

Lau Hong, 16, was arrested last December near the Legislative Council building’s demonstration area. He was convicted last month and remanded for three weeks.

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

Lau Hong
Lau Hong. Photo: Screenshot.

Lau also said the gun was meant for defending himself against anti-independence protesters. Pro-democracy lawmakers and activists were nearby protesting proposed changes to the council’s Rules of Procedures.

Louise Ng, a police forensic firearms expert, said at the hearing that the air gun’s size and shooting power were within legal parameters. She said the gun’s shape was common and it was widely available at various stores.

Magistrate Veronica Heung did not accept the self-defence claim and convicted him.

On Wednesday, Lau’s lawyer said the probation report stated that Lau was cooperative and reflected on his actions when he was remanded at the Pik Uk Correctional Institution. The report recommended 18 months of probation. Lau is required to participate in group and community activities, reported InMedia.

A report from the Young Offender Assessment Panel also recommended 18 months of probation and psychological counseling.

Eastern Law Courts Building
Eastern Law Courts Building. Photo: inmediahk.net.

The lawyer said Lau had good grades and his school has reserved a spot for him to continue studying for the public exam next year. His family was also supportive. The lawyer therefore asked the magistrate to consider a probation order.

Magistrate Heung said the case was serious as Lau possessed an imitation firearm, went to a crowded location, and claimed he would use it to assault others if he felt he was threatened.

However, Heung accepted that Lau was young and reflected on his actions when he was remanded. She also accepted that Lau was unlikely to commit a repeat crime with appropriate counselling. She therefore gave an 18-month probation order with conditions recommended by the reports.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.