The laser pointers allegedly purchased by a former Hong Kong student leader during the 2019 protests were “extremely dangerous,” a police sergeant has said in court as the young activist stood trial over accusations of possessing offensive weapons and other offences.
Keith Fong, who previously chaired the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) student union, appeared before District Judge Douglas Yau on Tuesday for the second day of his 10-day trial. The 23-year-old was charged with possessing offensive weapons after police allegedly found 10 laser pointers on him in Sham Shui Po on August 6, 2019.
He is also accused of resisting a police officer during the arrest and perverting the course of justice after he allegedly reset his phone before it was seized as evidence. Fong has denied all charges.
The District Court on Tuesday heard statements from the prosecution’s witnesses – police constable Wong Hon-fung and sergeant Lam Fat-kin. They were among a group of off-duty Organized Crime and Triad Bureau officers who went shopping on Apliu Street, where they “coincidentally” saw Fong buying laser pointers from a hawker.
Wong told the court that Fong was not a police target on that day, and both officers said they did not know who Fong was prior to the arrest.
The constable said he reported Fong’s actions to his senior Lam because “very few people would buy such high power laser pointers.” He then cited the “social atmosphere” during the months-long unrest in 2019, when protesters often aimed laser pointers at officers during clashes with police. The witnesses said that such actions had obstructed and even injured their colleagues.
Lam told the court that he had “a certain degree of understanding” of how the laser pointers worked, saying that red laser beams were often used for making presentations and for education purposes, while laser pointers with green lights were frequently used for teaching and stargazing.
But the laser pointers that projected blue light rays – which Fong allegedly purchased – were not suitable for looking at the stars as the activist claimed, the sergeant said.
“[The laser pointers were] extremely dangerous… [what Fong said] totally did not match the usage of the laser pointers,” Lam said.
The two policemen testified that Fong had been “uncooperative” when he was being stopped on the street, saying the arrestee kept shouting and questioned the identity of the officers. He also allegedly attempted to flee when sergeant Lam approached him with his police warrant.
A 13-minute video played by the prosecution – led by senior public prosecutor Ivan Cheung – showed that Fong yelled: “Why do you keep gripping me by the neck?” He also told the officers during the arrest that he “did not move” and was “very calm.”
Wong and Lam said there was some pushing between Fong and the officers which they saw as resistance from the ex-student leader.
“If you don’t cooperate, I will arrest you for obstructing police as well,” the video showed Lam saying to Fong at the time.
During their cross-examination by defence Senior Counsel Wong Ching-yu, the policemen denied that they had gripped Fong’s neck. The pair also said they and other officers did not do anything to Fong that breached police guidelines.
“Absolutely do not agree,” Lam told Senior Counsel Wong after he was asked if officers had their hands on the defendant’s neck.
According to the video footage, the crowds surrounding Fong and the police demanded the officers show their credentials, while some questioned why laser pointers would be deemed offensive weapons.
According to the police testimony, another officer checked and tested the laser pointers in a white plastic bag found on Fong, which had no batteries in them. Asked by Fong’s lawyer why police still made the arrest when the devices were not powered, officer Wong responded: “Not being able to use it doesn’t mean it is not illegal.”
Phone reset record
According to local media, the prosecution on Monday cited experts who found records showing Fong’s phone was reset at around 8.35 p.m. that night, including the date, account information and passwords.
Constable Wong told the court on Tuesday that when Fong was being treated in an ambulance, the arrested activist took out a phone and browsed the device’s general settings. He stopped Fong and asked him to switch off the phone, which the then-student union chair complied.
The constable said he did not seize the device as evidence on the ambulance because he wanted to let Fong receive first aid treatment first.
“I think he was using the phone, but I didn’t not know what he intended to do,” officer Wong said.
No SIM card
After Fong arrived at the Caritas Medical Centre at around 8.17 p.m., officer Wong said he continued to keep an eye on the activist, but did not follow him into an Accident and Emergency treatment cubicle.
He said while he was waiting outside, with the cubicle curtains open, around five to six people who claimed to be Fong’s family and friends argued with the police and questioned why Fong was apprehended.
Wong then saw a man and woman entered Fong’s treatment cubicle and spoke with the arrestee briefly, which the detective tried to stop but his warning was ignored.
The pair left after a short period of time and Fong was treated for about an hour behind the curtains. He was later sent to a ward.
In the presence of Fong’s lawyer Bond Ng, Wong said he seized Fong’s phone in the ward and sealed it into an evidence bag. It was then when he discovered there was no SIM card inside the device. When he asked the defendant about it, the ex-HKBU student leader gave no response.
Use of videos during testimony
Tuesday’s hearing began with prosecutor Cheung urging the court to allow video clips to be played to witnesses during their testimony in court.
The defence raised objections and said that such an arrangement lacked any legal basis. Senior Counsel Wong argued the videos may be used to remind the witnesses of the loopholes in their testimony. But when asked by the district judge to present a precedent to support his argument, Wong said there was none, because “no one had objected it [before].”
In handing down his decision, Yau said the footage the prosecution intended to play contained “relevancy” to the case, and it would not create any unfairness or bias against the defendant because the clips were already included in the evidence.
Playing the clips during witness testimony in court also “gives the court a clearer view of the incident,” Yau said.
The trial will continue on Wednesday morning with sergeant Lam being questioned by the defence. Fong remains on court bail.
Possession of an offensive weapon in public place carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
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