A Hong Kong court has adjourned sentencing a student who was convicted of conspiring to pervert the course of justice after instructing his friends to delete his internet browsing history while he was held in custody.

The delay came after a report mentioned that the student had a habit of using cannabis, which prompted the court to request another report to see if the defendant should be sent to a drug addiction treatment centre.

District Court
District Court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Student Kwong Wai-pong and his co-defendant Wong Chun-ip, both 21, appeared before Deputy District Judge Jacky Ip on Tuesday, when they were scheduled to face punishment for conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

Kwong was said to have asked Wong and another friend Yu Yan-yuk – an assistant to a district councillor – to clear the history from his Google Chrome browser and YouTube accounts, as well as erase data from a burner phone in February 2020, when Wong and Yu visited him at Pik Uk Correctional Institution.

The student was remanded into custody following his arrest on December 24, 2019 , when police found smoke bombs, the highly flammable chemical nitrocellulose and some gas masks in his possession at a storage unit in Kwun Tong.

During his trial, Kwong defended telling his friends to erase his browser history. He said it was to prevent his family from seeing the content he had viewed on the internet, which may have included pornography. The defence was rejected by the court.

The student was eventually found guilty of two charges of possession of explosives and one charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. His friend Wong, who was unemployed, was also convicted of taking part in the conspiracy, while Yu was acquitted.

Pik Uk Correctional Institution
Pik Uk Correctional Institution. File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

On Tuesday, Ip reviewed reports on whether Kwong and Wong were suitable to be sentenced to a detention centre, an alternative to imprisonment for male convicts aged between 14 and 24.

Both were found to be unsuitable, with Kwong deemed overweight and Wong said to have poor physical strength. The deputy district judge pointed to Kwong’s report, which stated that the student started using cannabis earlier this year to alleviate stress, and had continued to do so until August 27 – three days prior to his verdict.

Representing Kwong, barrister David Ma said his client only ate “gummy sweets” containing cannabidiol (CBD), one of over 100 compounds found in the cannabis plant. The lawyer said Kwong did not actually consume cannabis, adding there was no law regulating the use of CBD at present.

The Hong Kong government proposed a ban on CBD in June, saying CBD products often contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is illegal in the city.

cbd gummies
CBD gummies. File photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Ma asked to court to hand down Kwong’s sentence as scheduled, but Ip insisted on seeking a report to assess whether the student was an addict and needed to go to a drug addiction treatment centre. The court adjourned Kwong’s sentence to September 26.

“Whether it is CBD or cannabis, if there is an addiction then it needs to be taken care of,” Ip said.

Defendant Wong also saw his sentence adjourned to September 26. His lawyer urged the court to request a report into whether Wong was suitable for a community service order, rather than a custodial sentence.

The defence said Wong played a more minor role in the case and his culpability was not as severe as Kwong. The lawyer said Kwong and Wong did not actually delete the browser history, even after Kwong was released on bail. Wong was “young and ignorant” when he committed the offence, the defence said, adding the crime was not premeditated.

Ip repeatedly asked the defence to explain why such a request was not made in the last hearing. He said Wong did not seem to be remorseful, as he maintained he had no intention of assisting Kwong in deleting his browser history.

The court eventually agreed to request a report for Wong, but the deputy district judge said he would consider imposing immediate imprisonment for both Kwong and Wong, regardless of what the report says.

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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.