Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Police arrest student leader over laser pointers in Hong Kong (news.rthk.hk)
104 points by isaaafc 67 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

Thought I'd agree with this, but they were found in his bag. Doesn't sound like he used them and there's no mention of whether or not they're of an illegal class (assuming some are illegal in HK).

Another article (1) quotes the Chief Inspector as saying: "If anyone uses such an object to attack a person, it could also be deemed an offensive weapon" but no mention of such an attack in this specific case.

Can anyone supplement my (long-ago) grade 11 law class: is mens rea alone isn't enough to be convicted of a crime?

(1) https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-and-crime/article/30...

There's actual video footage of HK police officers arresting a kid because he had a flashlight in his backpack. They deemed it as a "weapon". Right now, HKPD is going on a rampage and making up excuses to arrest anyone who is brazen enough to talk back at them. It's juvenile. Good luck to the police officers who think that they'll magically go back to their normal lives after this. After grossly mistreating so many ppl in the community they swore to protect, they should expect spit in their food.

Some flashlights can definitely be used as weapons. A Maglite to the clavical while holding the bulb end is a pretty sure fire way to break ones collar bone and otherwise incapacitate an assailant. One of the reasons I keep one in my car. I once had the use it as a deterrent in a road rage incident. Random guy got pissed at me for driving aggressively in a school (I was driving the speed limit and he tried to pull out in front of me from a parallel parking spot, I had to swerve to avoid him and he followed me until I got stopped by a red light.).

Anyways, this guy gets out of his car and starts aproaching my car, and I get out of my car with the flashlight. Guy was easily 80-100 lbs larger than me. He immediately stepped back and accused me of being offensive. I responded with: you honked at me, gave me the finger, got out of your car at a light to confront me. I'm being defensive. You also have a significant size advantage. You have a problem with how I drive? Follow me to the police department and I'll tell them what I witnessed. Come a step closer, and you're going to the hospital, most likely.

Guy got back in his car and didnt follow up on my offer to speak with the police.

Used properly, a Maglite can be a great personal defense weapon. Swing toward the clavical (the area where neck meats shoulders). Again, hold by the bulb end; the shape will naturally help hold itself in your hand and youve got 3 C cell batteries at the other end which give a bit of heft to a swing.

A flashlight in your backpack is not a weapon.

Also an inexperienced person trying to use a blunt force weapon is more likely to become the victim.

In the eyes of the law, the intent matters much more than whether you can actually use the “weapon” effectively, especially if it can be demonstrated that somebody with enough skill/experience (not necessarily the person being found in possession) can use the “weapon” effectively.

Also, in the case of something like AntiFa, even if you had something like a Maglite in a backpack, intent to use could easily be construed. Broad daylight, youve got a Maglite? To what end?

Because days end?

A flashlight depending on type and size can be deemed as weapon. If it is a small pocket size naturally that would not immediately categorised as a weapon. However, if the flashlight sized object is a lazer pointer then it possibly can be categorised as being a weapon not physical but a distanced weapon of harm. It depends on the output of the Lazer if it is within safety parameters and also the users intended use. If the user is a lecturer or consultant then it fails within reasonable use. I think the legal considerations law enforcement and legal professionals have to deal with is more complex.

Part of the reason Maglite is so popular with security guards is that it's a weapon that also doubles as a flashlight and thus becomes legal to carry around.

I would not use the word rampage. Taking a neutral stance on the current matter in Hong Kong, you can see the use of extreme force catapulting bricks and rocks at the law enforcement officer and is more clear cut. The Lazer Pointer incident highlights the grey area with actual weapons to cause harm and the intention of modification of objects as weapons to cause harm. Lazer pointers with the wattage 1-5w can damage your eyes with a 10sec exposure. However, it does not take a lot of skill to upgrade the Lazer emitter with soldering electronics to increase output higher to cause harm easier and longer distances. The Police didn’t make that aspect clear. In addition reasonable use would have a person purchase one but purchasing 10 seems to fall out of ordinary use.

Mens rea alone isn't enough to be convicted of a crime, but the actus reus in this case sounds like possession rather than use.

I don't know about HK laws on laser pointers but here in Australia there are restrictions on laser pointers - anything >1mW requires a permit in most states, without a permit you're liable for possession of a prohibited weapon whether or not you planned to use it. Even <1mW, you may be required to have a reasonable excuse for possessing it if you take it into a public space (at least in some states, I haven't checked all of them).

Agreed and I think the public perception on the news regarding the Lazer Pointer incident doesn’t encompass the use of Lazer pointers or the governance of Lazer pointers. However, I think the Police didn’t make clear enough is the suspicion of carrying weapons and the wattage of the Lazer pointers weren’t disclosed at this point. Furthermore, the intention to modify something as a weapon to cause harm is something most regular people don’t consider. It’s easy to upgrade a laser pointer to emit light dangerously high and able to cause damage at a longer distances. I think Hk should take a page from Australia and limit the use of lasers as they are harmful even at 1-5w output. I certainly wouldn’t let my kids play with them.

> I don't know about HK laws on laser pointers

I think at this point you should be looking into China's laws on laser pointers, not Hong Kong's.

It's not at that point yet. PRC does have a garrison inside HK but they're sitting still. It's possible they could go in plain clothed to collect info and provocateur to discredit the protesters. It'd cause a pretty big meltdown if they were busted doing that.

Aside from that: HK has control over its statutes. https://www.elegislation.gov.hk/index/en/subject

Basic law (the part PRC plays a role) is the constitution. For an overview: https://www.basiclaw.gov.hk/en/facts/index.html

Aside, Here's a better article: http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=210397

No. The central government maintains a tight grip on the Hong Kong Government, and of course occasionally acts of its own accord in Hong Kong (see the case of the booksellers' rendition), but for the most part they still have to let the Hong Kong legal system operate as it does.

Even in light of these protests, it continues to seem fairly unlikely that Beijing will want to intervene militarily or impose direct controls over the HK government unless things heat up considerably more than they have already.

The justice system and judges are still under UK/HK control - HK has no law/rule that only HK people could be served as judge. https://www.judiciary.hk/en/about_us/judges.html

Your tone implies that there are rules.

Some relevant context: laser pointers have been being used by HK protesters lately to interfere with facial recognition on security cameras

Some more context; they're not only used to interfere with facial recognition. They're also being used to annoy the police officers, as well as people who are watching from their windows when protestors pass by. I've had lasers pointed at me when I was just looking out of my window over the protests.

Depending on the class it's not annoyance but endangers your eyesight. If used (in)appropriately it can definitely be classified as a weapon. A number of people have lost their eye to these things in the past (class 2+) - read on why its forbidden at burning man:


Is there a reason to lase random people looking out the window? Is it to shame you for not joining the protest, or because you could be a police or pro-China observer, etc.?

I'm not sure what the reason is. There's a hotel across the street from me, and some people were looking out of the window, instantly they had 5 lasers pointed at them. Someone was pointing a laser at me too.

The protesters want to avoid their faces being photographed. It's a reasonable thing to want, although I must admit it is pretty annoying.

Same reason protesters disrupted traffic by blocking roads and holding train doors open during rush hour to prevent people from going to work, disrespect the national flag, etc.

Some of them are protesting for reasonable demands (even universal suffrage is not too unrealistic a demand for Beijing IMO but any dose of separatism is definitely a no-no) but increasingly it looks like the majority are students venting their anger because they found themselves in a bad economic situation and have a long summer break to spare.

Good to know, this trick will become more and more useful to know in the west as well!

I support Democracy in HK. Please contact your representatives to support Democracy too

Late to the party but thought I'd clarify because some comments are extremely misleading.

He's a member of the Astronomy Club. Also 7 Aug, the following night, is the "Seven Sister's Festival", a traditional festival in Hong Kong which stargazing is a common activity to do during.

Stargazing was a perfectly legal and reasonable intent. Not to say he was definitely not involved in the protests, but there was absolutely no evidence that he intended to use them as weapons.

The officers who approached him didn't show their warrant card at first. They also held his throat. Given the current situation in Hong Kong (triad members attacked citizens in public on 21 July and 5 Aug in 3 different places, and NO POLICE arrived at the scenes until well after the incidents, and so far no attacker is being prosecuted, despite the abundant video footage of the attacks), running away also was what sane people would do when they're threatened by 4 men with dubious identities.

You try pointing a laser-pointer at a police officer around here and you will be lucky if you are just arrested.

> "Officers later searched his bag and found the pointers. Fong is heard saying he bought them for star-gazing."

This is from the article. The pointers were in his bag. He didn't point at anyone. Your comment implied that he did, and that's factually incorrect.

From another article too: > Chief Inspector Chow Hok-yin from the organised crime and triad bureau said officers approached Fong because he was acting suspiciously, but he ran away. Officers chased and caught him, and found 10 torch-like laser pointers, each 18cm (7 inches) long, in his plastic bag.


Sure. But the reason why the police is looking for laser-pointers is kinda obvious isn't? I am merely pointing out that what you kids are getting away in Hong Kong would have been met with a much stronger reaction elsewhere.

You seem to carry a lot of unwarranted assumptions with you. For example, you assume my age and call people "you kids", despite not displaying enough maturity in your own comments. You assume the reason the police is looking for laser pointers is obvious. It's actually not. Depends on the side you ask, the answer could be that the police are just looking to frame the student, or that the student pointed the lazer pointer at someone, then hid it in his bag. I suggest you take a step back and assume fewer things. It will help you to be more rational and less emotionally charged.

It's not obvious, they've been using them to disable cameras facial recognition.

According to the article, he had them in his bag and there's no evidence of him using them.

I am pretty sure China doesn't have a restriction on laser pointers. There are laser pointers up to 1W for sale on taobao.com

Just because they are on Taobao doesn't mean they are not against the law.

From my own observations, law enforcement in Mainland China is mostly reactive when it comes to product safely. They don't enforce a law unless something becomes an actual, big enough problem - especially if it threatens (the image of) the people in power.

China doesn’t have strong rule of law, so the law might exist but just being ignored until convenient to enforce.

And in case it’s not obvious, they’re incredibly dangerous to eyesight. They’ll literally blind you before you can blink.

It really depends on the power. The lasers the protesters use wouldn't blind you due to the blink reflex. If what you're saying was true, hundreds of police officers would be blind right now.

I was referring to the 1W lasers the parent commenter mentioned, but yes of course.

A volunteer at Burning Man was blinded in one eye a few years ago: https://journal.burningman.org/2015/03/black-rock-city/tales...

I seem to remember some dodgy street vendors in Sanlitun hawking these things.

This is in HK. A city in China but in an autonomous region. Communist China has different laws.

Part of me wants to start protest at Chinese embassies in the US. I wonder what the response would be.

Nitpick: There's only one Chinese embassy in the USA, in Washington D.C.

The other diplomatic offices are consulates.

If it's anything like the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand, there's usually regular protests outside, for a variety of reasons. Their response would be to ignore them, like they usually do.

Double nitpick: China has a second embassy in the US, the UN embassy in Manhattan.

Triple nitpick: China calls its diplomatic mission to the UN a "permanent mission", not an "embassy".

Get rowdier.

Where I grew up, there were pretty frequent protests infront of the Chinese embassy. Year after year. I saw something similar at a Chinese consulate in the US once.

I spent two years in Hong Kong. There were frequent (weekly) protests at Chinese buildings (I remember one in particular that seemed to always have a crowd of people, in Sheung Wan, on Connaught Road I think?). It was always super peaceful, from both sides.

> There were frequent (weekly) protests at Chinese buildings (I remember one in particular that seemed to always have a crowd of people, in Sheung Wan, on Connaught Road I think?).

The Beijing liaison office. That's attracted a lot of protests in the past few weeks, and has had a temporary barricade around it for about as long.

You'd be standing alone outside of a Chinese embassy ranting about laser pointers.

Falun Gong protests are a regular occurrence outside of Chinese embassies. They are mostly ignored.

There's a permanent (one-person) Falun Gong protest outside the consulate in San Francisco. At least, it was still there the last time I went.

Answer: China would try to use it as "proof" that foreigners are somehow stirring up the dissent in Hong Kong.

HK stands no chance tho.

No but it's really instructive to Taiwan, which is seriously up-armoring now.

HK is doomed for sure, but Taiwan isn't.

I'm not sure that's true in the long term either, an invasion might not be possible, but what's to stop China bombing enough power plants and other infrastructure to send the country back to the stone age and invading after everything fallen apart? Even the bombing part they might not have to do directly, blaming it on some terrorist group.

If HK falls, it's just a matter of time before Taiwan does.

Do it. Not sure why you're being downvoted

There's been protests at the London Chinese embassy fairly frequently since 1997. More visible and frequently reported during the 2014 umbrella protests, and again during these protests.

I'd be a little surprised if there haven't been similar at embassies in the US - perhaps they're just not attracting enough numbers to be widely reported?

With the current situation in HK, and his position, there may be valid concern it may not be used legally

It’s not that hard to prove intent if he is really innocent

If he’s really star gazing, why does he need 10 lasers? Show some evidence of your plan (where you are planning to go to star gaze, who you are going with (10 lasers are a bit too many for 1 person’s needs). Have you always been interested in Astronomy? It is rare (not impossible) for someone to suddenly find an interest in star gazing overnight.

Of course, it may be hard for police to actually prosecute him based on just intent - HK laws are still quite good. However, if he's been seen on the protest frontlines, plus ownership of lasers, it might make more of a case.

HK is not a place known for star gazers really - the light pollution is horrendous

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact