A student has been convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by instructing two of his friends to delete the internet browser history and account information on his electronic devices while he was in custody.

District Court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Appearing before District Court Judge Jacky Ip on Tuesday, Kwong Wai-pong, 21, was found guilty of two charges of possession of explosives and one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Kwong was arrested and remanded in custody on Christmas Eve in 2019 after being stopped by police at a mini storage unit in Kwun Tong, where police found gas mask filters on him and various chemicals in his storage locker, local media reported. There were reportedly also boxes of gas masks and papers with the Chinese phrase “justice will prevail.”

According to local media reports, he told the police he used the chemicals in his personal interests, such as magic and photography, and kept them in a storage locker because his family had asked him not to keep them at home.

Browser history

Kwong also stood accused of instructing two of his friends – his co-defendants Yu Yan-yuk, 20, and Wong Chun-ip, 21 – to delete his browser history while he was in custody.

The court heard that Kwong asked Yu and Wong to wipe all digital traces from his Google Chrome browser and YouTube accounts and erase the data from a burner phone when they visited him at Pik Uk Correctional Institution in February 2020.

Pik Uk Correctional Institution. File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

During his trial, Kwong admitted to instructing the pair to delete the information for him, but said he did not intend to obstruct the police investigation or pervert the administration of justice.

His accounts and devices would be managed by his family members while he was in custody, he said, and he did not want them to see some of his browser history, which may include pornography websites.

Unreliable witness

When handing down his verdict, the judge ruled that Kwong was not a reliable witness because he changed his testimony multiple times.

Ip said he was also not convinced that Kwong had the chemicals because he was interested in magic or used them for photography. The judge said the locker did not store any other tools or equipment that were used for performing magic or photo-taking.

Regarding the charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, Ip said when Kwong requested his co-defendants to remove browser history, he mentioned another friend “who also made bombs” whose phones and devices had been seized by police.

Wan Chai government tower. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Kwong’s defence lawyer suggested that it was just a casual chat between the trio, who were secondary school friends. But the judge said it was clear that when Kwong mentioned the “bomb-making friend,” he was implying to his co-defendants that the browser history which may incriminate him for the explosive offences must be erased.

One acquitted, one convicted

The two other defendants in the case each faced one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. After reviewing all the evidence, Ip convicted Wong, but acquitted Yu. Yu appeared to breathe a sigh of relief in the dock when the judge announced his verdict.

As for Wong, the judge said that he had responded “I understand. I know what to do,” when Kwong asked him to help delete his browser history and mentioned the “bomb-making friend.” The judge also said Wong had jotted down Kwong’s log in IDs and passwords. He said Wong had the time during the meeting to think about his decision, adding that his response was not an impulsive one.

Lawyers for both defendants pleaded for leniency, saying they were young and immature. Kwong’s defence said the amount of explosives he possessed was small when compared to other precedents, and urged the judge take that into account.

Ip said he believed that the seriousness of the case would warrant the defendants to be imprisoned immediately, but considering their young age, he postponed the sentencing to seek a detention centre report.

People in the public gallery shouted “hang in there” when the Kwong and Wong were taken away. One of Kwong’s friend’s asked him to send her a book list, so she could send him books.

The case was adjourned to September 13, with Kwong and Wong remanded until sentencing.

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Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.