A student from mainland China arrested at a Hong Kong democracy protest was on Thursday sentenced to six weeks in prison for possession of an offensive weapon — the territory’s first such case involving a mainlander in almost five months of unrest.
Since the first mass demonstrations in June, more than 3,300 people have been arrested in Hong Kong in connection with the protest movement, with some charged for rioting and illegal assembly.
About one-third of those arrested were students.
Chen Zimou (陳子謀), a 24-year-old music and English student from Chongqing, was arrested for carrying an extendable baton during a protest in July.
He denied participating in the protest and prosecutors did not have any evidence to identify him as a protester.
He has already spent two weeks in custody after his conviction and is to spend four more weeks behind bars following his sentencing in court.
Hong Kong has been upended by the huge, often violent, pro-democracy protests which have battered the territory’s reputation for stability.
A 16-year-old was also found guilty of two counts of possessing offensive weapons, the first conviction of a juvenile since the protests started.
He was arrested in September when he was only 15, for carrying a laser pointer and a modified umbrella containing a walking stick.
Chen, who studies at the University of Hong Kong, goes across the border to Shenzhen every weekend to give piano lessons.
His lawyer said Chen carried a baton for self-defense following a mob attack on protesters by suspected triad gang members in Yuen Long — which he must pass through when commuting to Shenzhen.
That assault on July 21 left nearly 50 people — including passersby — in hospital, some with horrific wounds.
Chen has been critical of both protest violence and police brutality, writing on Facebook after his arrest that the government should carry out an independent investigation into police actions and that officials “should propose a compromised solution to meet the protesters’ five demands.”
His status as a mainland student has brought him heavy criticism from Internet users across the border.
On Sina Weibo, users blamed him for standing with “rioters” in Hong Kong, while some even went further, harassing his family.
In China, news and information on the protests in Hong Kong have been heavily censored with state-owned media pushing their own narrative.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) has said that she is “saddened” to know that many students have been arrested and some severely injured, yet she has provided no solution to the crisis.
The first protests, in which millions marched, were sparked by a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions to the mainland. Protesters are now demanding an inquiry into police brutality, an amnesty for those arrested and free elections.
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