A pro-independence secondary school student in Hong Kong who took an airgun to a protest against changing the Legislative Council’s rule book was on Wednesday placed on probation for 18 months.
Lau Hong, 16, was also required to get psychological counselling and to participate in community activities. The recommendation for probation was made by the Young Offender Assessment Panel and a probation officer.
“Are you willing to accept the probation?” Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han asked.
“Yes,” Lau replied in the dock, frowning.
The Secondary Six student had shaved his hair in the three weeks he spent in Pik Uk Correctional Institution, where he had been remanded since being found guilty last month of possessing an imitation firearm, an offence punishable by two years’ imprisonment.
The Eastern Court heard Lau was intercepted by police in Admiralty last December 12 while wearing a hood and a face mask, and carrying a cross-body bag containing an eight-inch air pistol with a loaded magazine, a bottle of 1,000 yellow plastic pellets and five “Hong Kong is not China” stickers.
About 50 metres away was a protest staged by the pan-democrats against a Legco debate that was under way to change its rules of procedure to curb filibustering.
Lau testified that he joined the protest only to take pictures, and that he had a habit of carrying the air pistol all the time because he was worried he might be attacked for supporting Hong Kong independence.
But the magistrate rejected his self-defence claim and concluded that the teenager had carried an offensive weapon for the purpose of committing a crime.
Sentencing reports ordered by the court recommended probation and a stint at a training centre or rehabilitation centre. The reports stated Lau was unsuited to a detention centre because of a medical condition.
Defence counsel Poon Siu-bunn urged the magistrate to adopt the recommendation for probation, arguing that his client was a disciplined 16-year-old with good grades and that he had received support from his mother and older sister.
“There’s room in this case to give more weight to rehabilitation over deterrence,” Poon said.
The magistrate replied: “The case is, without doubt, a serious one.”
But she considered Lau’s young age and that he had already reflected on his behaviour during his three weeks in remand.
“The court believes with suitable counselling and supervision ... your chance of reoffending is low,” Heung continued. “I hope you will cherish this opportunity.”
Lau had no previous convictions.
He first made headlines last November for brandishing a pro-independence banner during a photo opportunity with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Amendments to the Legco rule book were passed on December 15.
This article Hong Kong secondary student gets 18-month probation for carrying airgun near Legco protest first appeared on South China Morning Post