Former Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) students’ union president Keith Fong has been jailed for nine months for resisting police and perverting the course of justice, in a case linked to his purchase of 10 laser pointers during the 2019 protests.

The District Court on Thursday passed sentence on Fong, who has been in custody since early February after he was convicted of the two offences. Judge Douglas Yau rejected the defence’s suggestions of a fine and a suspended sentence, saying only immediate imprisonment could reflect the seriousness of the crimes.

Keith Fong District Court
Former president of the Hong Kong Baptist University student union Keith Fong photographed outside the District Court on December 6, 2021.

Fong was arrested on August 6, 2019 by off-duty officers from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau who were shopping on Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po when they “coincidentally” saw him buying laser pointers from a hawker, according to police testimony during the trial last December.

He was rearrested in December 2020, when police officially pressed charges.

In February, Yau ruled that the former student leader had obstructed police investigations by resetting his phone before it was seized as evidence, which affected judicial procedures and criminal prosecution. Fong also “caused confusion” during his arrest by repeatedly asking the officers to prove their identity, the judge said.

District Court
Wan Chai Law Courts Building. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Such action was “the lowest form” of resistance compared to other cases of a similar nature, Senior Counsel Wong Ching-yu argued on Thursday. His suggestion of a fine was rejected by Yau, who said this would not have a deterrent effect. Instead, Yau said he would consider six months’ imprisonment as the starting point for sentencing.

The court also refused to pass a suspended sentence proposed by the defence on the charge of perverting justice. Removing a SIM card from an iPhone involved the use of a paperclip-like tool, Yau said, which showed Fong had “a certain degree of premeditation” or assistance from a third party. A nine-month jail term was set as the base for sentencing for this charge.

The defence said Fong intended to study in the UK in September after being accepted last month by SOAS University of London and the University of Glasgow, with the latter offering a scholarship.

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Hong Kong protesters use laser pointers during the 2019 protests. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Defence counsel Wong Ching-yu urged the court to take the university admission offers into consideration when handing down the sentence. The lawyer also cited mitigation letters from Fong’s mother, a professor from HKBU, his secondary school principal and others. They described Fong as an aspirational person with a strong sense of justice, saying he would “make great contributions” to society.

“[Fong] is not a criminal,” Wong told the court.

But Yau decided the mitigation factors were not applicable in seeking a reduced sentence. He ordered Fong to serve a total of nine months behind bars, with the jail terms to be served concurrently.

“Based on how highly the universities spoke of Fong, he should be able to defer his studies… [the jail sentence] would not have an impact on his academic development in the long run,” Yau said.

Fong was originally also accused of possessing offensive weapons. In his verdict, Yau rejected Fong’s defence that he bought the laser pointers for stargazing. While the purchase was “suspicious,” the judge ruled that it was difficult to determine how he would actually use the items and cleared him of the charge.

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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.