The first person to be sentenced for possessing a laser pointer during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong was sentenced to at least three months in a rehabilitation centre on Monday.
But the 16-year-old, whose name has been withheld for legal reasons, remained in jail after acting chief magistrate Victor So Wai-tak turned down his bail application pending an appeal at the High Court.
The boy, who was 15 at the time of the offence, had been remanded in custody since his arrest on September 21, when he was found carrying a laser pointer, a modified umbrella and a hiking stick near the bus terminal at Tuen Mun MTR station, during a demonstration in the rural town.
Earlier this month at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court, So found the student guilty of possession of an offensive weapon with intent, for carrying the umbrella and the stick. He also convicted him of possession of an offensive weapon in a public place for carrying the laser pointer, which he ruled was not an offensive weapon in itself but could become one if used to harm the eyes of police officers.
The law requires the student to serve a period of three to nine months in two rehabilitation centres, where he will receive disciplinary training, workplace training and psychological counselling. The Correctional Services Department will finalise the length of the sentence based on his behaviour.
On Monday at the same court, defence counsel Peter Chiu Ka-ming asked the court to impose a jail term, which would enable the secondary school pupil’s immediate release because of time served, and allow him to continue his studies.
“Jail has been a huge punishment to him,” Chiu said. “I ask the court to give him a chance to resume education and be a normal secondary school student again.”
But the magistrate said a deterrent sentence was inevitable, because the student’s acts posed “serious threats” to police officers, disrupted social order and prevented others from exercising their right to free expression.
“The court must explain to you clearly that it has nothing to do with your opinions or stances, or your relative youth. You’re free to take whatever views and take part in lawful and peaceful processions, but this sentence mainly targets your unlawful acts,” So told the teenager.
Citing three reports, So found it was not suitable to send him to a detention centre, which focuses on discipline through physical labour, or a training centre, which serves a similar function to a rehabilitation centre but with a longer statutory sentencing period.
But the magistrate told the teenager, who suffers attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and has a record of consuming cannabis, that sending him to a rehabilitation centre could correct his behavioural problems.
“Your 72-year-old father has had a hard time taking care of you and your brother. Set a goal to yourself that you would return the favour to him in the future,” the magistrate added.
The student was separately charged with taking part in an unlawful assembly in Mong Kok on August 3. He and nine others will appear at Kowloon City Court on Tuesday.
This article First Hong Kong anti-government protester sentenced for carrying laser pen sent to rehabilitation centre first appeared on South China Morning Post