Hong Kong prosecutors have dropped charges against an elderly man who brandished a kitchen knife at pro-democracy protesters last November. The case represents the second time in a month that the Department of Justice (DoJ) withdrew a case against a man allegedly threatening protesters.

A 83-year-old man surnamed Yu appeared at Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Courts on Wednesday to face one count of possession of offensive weapons. The incident took place on November 11, 2019, when Yu got into an argument with some protesters on a footbridge near Ngau Chi Wan Market on a day of city-wide demonstrations and unrest.

Department of Justice
Department of Justice. Photo: GovHK.

According to local media, Yu went home before returning to the footbridge where around 200 protesters had congregated with a 10-inch kitchen knife in his hand yelling “stop harming me.” He was arrested at the scene and told police that he took the knife out as an act of “revenge” after some people beat and kicked him.

The defence lawyers argued that Yu was emotional at the time and was only trying to reason with the demonstrators with no intention to cause harm. They added he had high blood pressure and other health conditions that would make imprisonment inappropriate.

Protest at Chinese University of Hong Kong
Protest at Chinese University of Hong Kong. Photo: Stand News.

Prosecutors from the DoJ decided to waive Yu’s charges and he was bound over for HK$2,000. He had to agree to behave for a period of 24 months.

Knife-wielding man at CUHK

Last week, the DoJ dropped a case against a man who allegedly waved a knife inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) during a graduation ceremony last November. According to local media, the mainland Chinese CUHK student surnamed Li approached a group of graduates who had put on helmets and masks to show solidarity with the pro-democracy movement. He had a fruit knife in his hand while he sang the Chinese national anthem.

Li was taken away by security guards and was later charged with possession of offensive weapons. But the prosecutors decided to drop the case, saying Li did not harm anyone and it was his first offence. He received the same bind-over order as Yu and did not end up with a criminal record.

Apple Daily reported that the magistrate, who had no discretion, questioned the prosecutors’ decision and said it was “rare.” The judge said wielding a knife was “a lot more dangerous” than laser pointers used by some demonstrators.

china extradition protest mask laser pointer
Hong Kong protesters use laser pointers during demonstrations. File photo: May James/HKFP.

In May, a 16-year-old boy became the first protester to be found guilty of carrying a laser pointer as an offensive weapon. The High Court dismissed the teenager’s appeal against his conviction and upheld his sentence of three months in a rehabilitation centre.

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.