Lawyers for a university student charged with unlicensed possession of firearms and military equipment have accused the Hong Kong police’s new national security unit of coercing their client into making a confession by threatening to prosecute his mother and girlfriend.
The complaint was heard on Saturday at Tuen Mun Court, where Polytechnic University freshman Lui Sai-yu faced three charges following his arrest during a raid on his Fanling flat two days ago.
The 23-year-old engineering student was said to have been in possession of a pepper ball launcher, two pepper ball magazines, 14 respirators, three gas mask filters and a bulletproof vest – none of which had the necessary licences.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
He was also charged with keeping two military knives and an extendable baton at his home with the intent to use them for unlawful purposes.
On Saturday, Lui was not required to enter a plea to the three charges – possession of firearms without a licence, import of strategic commodities without a licence, and possession of offensive weapons – as prosecutors asked that police be given extra time to examine the seized weapons.
Defence lawyer Kevin Tang Tsz-kai said Lui had remained silent when police first interviewed him on Thursday evening, but admitted possessing the weapons during a second interview on Friday night. That change of heart was due to police coercion, Tang said.
My client was … threatened by a group of people claiming to be national security officers, asking him to make a frank confession and cooperate. Otherwise, they would prosecute his mother and girlfriend
Defence lawyer Kevin Tang
“My client was, on more than one occasion, threatened by a group of people claiming to be national security officers, asking him to make a frank confession and cooperate,” Tang said. “Otherwise, they would prosecute his mother and girlfriend.”
Tang added that the second interview was conducted in the absence of Lui’s legal representatives. The group of people who claimed to be national security officers were not named in court.
In reply, the prosecution said police had asked the defendant whether he needed a lawyer to accompany him when he gave his witness statements to the force.
The police declined to comment.
The force’s new national security unit was created with the task of enforcing the sweeping security legislation Beijing imposed on the city on July 30.
Acting principal magistrate Kathie Cheung Kit-yee remanded Lui in custody after prosecutors voiced objection to his temporary release. His case will be heard again at Fanling Court on November 20.
Lui’s mother, 49, was also arrested during the police operation on Thursday. She was released without charge, but must report to police in late November.
Possession of firearms or ammunition without a licence carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail and a HK$100,000 fine, while the unlicensed import of strategic commodities is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment.
Possession of offensive weapons is punishable by two years’ jail and a HK$5,000 fine under the Summary Offences Ordinance.