A university student who carried a retractable baton to defend himself from a possible attack during the anti-government protests in Hong Kong was jailed for six weeks on Thursday.
West Kowloon Principal Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen opted for a shorter jail term for Chen Zimou rather than a stint in the detention centre, which would last at least three months, after finding that Chen was merely carrying the prohibited item for self-defence.
Chen, a 24-year-old music student at the University of Hong Kong, was arrested in Sheung Wan on July 28 when he asked police officers in a cordon line whether he could pass through.
Searching his bag, police found the retracted baton, which measured 78cm if fully extended.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.
Although Chen did not take part in the protests, given his age the sentence could only be a term in a jail or a detention centre, according to the Public Order Ordinance.
Before sentencing him on Thursday, Law said: “There was no evidence that he was [a] part of the riot.”
While a report sought on Chen suggested he would be a suitable candidate for detention, Law said the option would be disproportionate to the crime committed and would deprive him of his freedom for too long.
The magistrate passed a nine-week jail sentence, before cutting it by three weeks after reflecting on Chen’s remorse in pleading guilty.
Chen is expected to serve four more weeks before his release, having already spent two weeks in the Correctional Services Department’s custody.
The court heard that Chen, a native of Chongqing in mainland China, feared for his safety due to the increasingly violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
The unrest, triggered in June by the government’s now-withdrawn extradition bill, have led to major clashes between police and radical demonstrators, who have also embarked on a campaign of vandalism against businesses thought to be linked to the mainland.
In a separate incident, Chen was assaulted in Zhuhai, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, last year, and suffered “pretty serious” injuries.
So he bought the baton, which cost him 120 yuan, from an online shopping platform on the mainland.
He used to go to Shenzhen frequently to give piano lessons to support his studies. He was on his way home from Shenzhen when he was caught on July 28.
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