A man who was found carrying two laser pens in 2019 has been sentenced to four months in jail over charges of possessing offensive weapons and common assault.

tuen mun law court
Tuen Mun Law Courts Building. File Photo: Wikicommons.

Tse Ki-chung earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges, local media reported. He was sentenced by Magistrate Jeffrey Sze at Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Courts on Wednesday.

The case involved an incident on November 15, 2019. Tse, a 28-year-old computer programmer, was accused of shining a laser pointer at an off-duty police officer who was filming somebody graffitiing outside Tuen Mun MTR station. There was no protest nearby at the time.

Sze said that Tse – whose face was covered – shone the laser pen at the cop at a close distance. Even though the cop was not seriously injured, his face felt hot and painful when touched. His phone camera lens’ capabilities were also damaged, Sze added.

Hong Kong was rocked by protests and unrest in the latter half of 2019, triggered by a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China, where the legal system is criticised as opaque. The demonstrations morphed into a wider display of discontent against the Hong Kong and Beijing governments.

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File photo: May James/HKFP.

At certain protests, lasers were aimed at police officers in an attempt to distract them. Following the arrest of a student leader in possession of laser pointers in 2019, senior superintendent referred to the devices as “laser guns,” and police held a press conference to demonstrate their potential dangers.

The defence’s argument

The defence said that Sze was hardworking, having not given up after performing poorly in his public examinations and studying for a diploma. He later successfully enrolled at the University of Hong Kong.

Sze – along with his brother – were an important economic pillar for his family, and took care of their sick parents, the court heard.

The defence argued that plea letters written by the defendant, his family, former colleagues and university professors showed that he was a motivated and loyal person.

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File photo: May James/HKFP.

Around 10,250 people were arrested in connection with the 2019 protests, about 40 per cent of whom were secondary school or university students.

According to the defence, Tse was told six months after his arrest that he no longer had to renew his bail. He was re-arrested last March, local media reported.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.