A PhD student at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has been sentenced to 160 hours of community service after he was found guilty of committing indecent assault and common assault on campus in January.

Deputy Magistrate Gary Chu on Wednesday ordered Guan Weipeng, a doctoral mechanical engineering student at HKU, to complete 160 hours of community service for touching and assaulting female student “X” at the university campus in Pok Fu Lam on January 26, local media reported.

University of Hong Kong HKU
The University of Hong Kong. File photo: Supplied.

Guan was said to have attempted to strike up a conversation with X and invited her for a chat on a rooftop, which X rejected. The PhD student then followed her and pulled her to a corner with no security camera coverage, local media reported citing the prosecution’s case. He was also said to have touched X’s bum in an escalator.

X had made it clear that she did not want to have any contact with Guan, Chu said, when he handed down the sentence in the Eastern Magistrates’ Court. Guan obviously had “unscrupulous intentions” when he followed the victim into a blind spot and grabbed her by the hand, he said, adding the case was “serious.”

The defence had urged the court to impose a lenient penalty, saying Guan had reflected deeply while detained awaiting sentencing. He was convicted on September 28.

Considering Guan was a first-time offender and had admitted to impulsively committing the offence after the verdict, Chu said the PhD student showed remorse. The defendant also had outstanding academic achievements and good conduct prior to the case, which led the court to mete out a community service order as punishment.

Eastern Magistrates' Courts
Eastern Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In Hong Kong, anyone convicted of committing indecent assault could face imprisonment of up to 10 years, while those found guilty of common assault is liable to a one-year prison term. But sentences handed down by a magistrate are capped at two years.

During mitigation last month, the defence said Guan completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mainland China before pursuing a doctorate in Hong Kong with scholarship issued by the Chinese government, local media reported. He has published and co-written more than 70 journal articles, his profile on Google Scholar showed.

Guan’s representative said at the time that the defendant might face an internal disciplinary hearing at HKU following his conviction, and he might not be able to continue his study at the university.

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, a spokesperson for HKU said on Wednesday that the university would not disclose students’ personal information due to privacy concerns.

“In general, we do not disclose personally identifiable information in students out of privacy concerns. HKU has due procedures in place to handle student disciplinary matters,” an email reply from HKU read.

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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.