Angered over the arrest of a student who had 10 laser pointers in his bag, about 1,000 people gathered near the Hong Kong Space Museum in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui on Wednesday night and staged a laser show.
The crowd, with few wearing facemasks or helmets, waved their laser pointers around, chanted slogans, danced to music and created their own laser show, which coincided with a show organized by the Hong Kong Tourism Board on the harbourfront.
Some tried to concentrate their laser beams on one spot in an attempt to set fire to the nearby planetarium, mocking what police said at a press conference earlier in the day when they claimed the laser pointers could start fires. No fires were started by the crowd’s lasers.
Some students wearing T-shirts carrying the words “astronomical society” taught the crowd how to stargaze with the assistance of the laser pointers.
One 22-year-old woman said she took part because she wanted to show her support for the arrested student and criticized the police for their slow response when thugs attacked protesters at an earlier rally.
A 28-year-old man said he went to Sham Shui Po and bought a new laser pointer for the star-gazing event and said the arrest of the student was unreasonable and ridiculous, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Nobody occupied the nearby road and no police were deployed to the scene. The crowd left the area peacefully just past midnight, a rare finish for an event with no tear gas fired, unlike other gatherings in the past two months.
Wednesday night’s stargazing event was held after Keith Fong Ka-shing, a 20-year-old student and the president of the Hong Kong Baptist University’s Student Union, was arrested by four plainclothes police officers in Sham Shui Po on Tuesday night with 10 laser pointers in his bag.
Fong said he bought the laser pointers for star-gazing. He was charged with possessing offensive weapons and is still in detention.
Read: HK police arrest student leader carrying lasers
On Wednesday afternoon, police tried to justify the arrest at a press conference by demonstrating how a laser beam could set a piece of paper alight. They claimed anti-extradition bill protesters had been using laser pointers to hinder front line police officers during the demonstrations.
They used one of the 10 seized laser pointers in the demonstration.
‘Abuse of power’
Li Kwai-hai, a senior superintendent at the organized crime and triad bureau, insisted on calling the laser pointers “laser guns,” claiming the devices could injure people’s eyes. He claimed three police officers had suffered injuries from them. But he admitted police had not consulted the department of justice when they decided to hold their demonstration of the laser at the press conference.
Members of the legal profession and academics criticized the way police handled the case.
Lawyer Wong Kwok-tung said laser pointer pens were a kind of stationery item and he did not see any valid reasons for the police to stop and search the student. He said the police had abused their power. Wong said if laser pointers were considered weapons because they were used during the protests, umbrellas could be weapons too.
A spokesperson for the Progressive Lawyer Group said the police wanted to create the impression that they did not make a false arrest by demonstrating the device at the press conference. However, he added that it was unfair as they passed judgment before any hearing, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
Meanwhile, 45 members of the teaching staff at Baptist University issued a statement demanding the police unconditionally release Fong and they condemned his arrest as unreasonable.
“The police have arrested a Hong Kong citizen based on his consumption of a common commodity. This reveals that the police have abused their power and have made arbitrary arrests in an out-of-control manner,” the statement said.
They also urged the force to stop spreading what they called white terror among the public, a reference to thugs wearing white shirts who attacked protesters.
Baptist University students tried to pressure their President Roland Chin into condemning the arrest of Fong. But their demands were repeatedly sidestepped by Chin, who only said he was shocked by the incident but wanted to find out what happened before condemning anyone. Chin said the university would provide support to Fong.