A 23-year-old man found with two hammers in a Hong Kong park early this year has been jailed for nine months, after a magistrate ruled the instruments were intended for vandalism amid the social unrest that engulfed the city, despite a lack of evidence he took part in protests.
Fanling Court on Thursday sentenced Wong Chun-tik to jail over one count of possessing instruments for unlawful purposes, punishable by two years’ behind bars or a HK$5,000 (US$645) fine.
Principal Magistrate Don So Man-lung ruled last month it was the “only irresistible inference” that the marketing assistant had planned to use the hammers to vandalise public property, rejecting his defence that he used the items to repair his motorcycle.
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At trial, the court heard Wong was intercepted by police at a park in Tai Po at 11pm on January 19, three hours after four petrol bombs landed outside Tai Po Police Station.
Although Wong was not under suspicion in the firebombing case, he was prosecuted for carrying the hammers, a hiking pole and a folding knife without reasonable excuse.
He testified he was carrying the items because a friend had promised to teach him how to repair his motorcycle later that night.
He also said the goggles and respirator found in his backpack were for use, respectively, as an eye shield while driving, and as a substitute for surgical masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In his verdict last month, Magistrate So dismissed the claim, finding it unreasonable the defendant would go to his friend’s home to fix his motorcycle in such late hours. He further rejected Wong’s suggestion that he could not buy a mask in the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Instead, So said he could only draw the inference that the defendant had planned to damage public property with the hammers, while covering his face with the goggles and respirator to prevent identification, at future anti-government demonstrations.
On Thursday, defence lawyer Wesley Wong Ho-nam urged the court to pass a sentence similar to the one given to 20-year-old student Hong Tak-fong, who was jailed for nine weeks for carrying a hammer, folding knife, spanner and screwdriver during a protest last November.
But the magistrate said he was not bound by that ruling, stressing the present case required a deterrent sentence given its serious nature.
Wong has been granted bail to lodge an appeal against his conviction in the High Court.