The head of a Hong Kong college student body has been released without charge, two days after being arrested on suspicion of carrying "offensive weapons" after he bought a pack of laser pointers.
Keith Fong, president of the Hong Kong Baptist University Student Union was released unconditionally after hundreds of angry students gathered on the college campus to demand his release, disrupting ongoing student registrations.
Fong was freed after he refused bail conditions—which in the past have involved an effective travel ban enforced by surrendering one's passport—but police said they reserve the right to prosecute him in future, according to his lawyer.
He was taken to hospital after being taken ill during his arrest, his lawyer said.
On Thursday, around 100 protesters were still handing out leaflets and criticising the university's president Roland Chin for what they said was an inadequate and vapid response to Fong's arrest.
A student protester surnamed Lee said Chin had barely managed to communicate anything to students during his attempt at a dialogue on Wednesday, much less speak up on their behalf.
"Chin wouldn't come out and protect the president of our student union, nor did he condemn the police actions on our behalf," Lee said. "If students come out, they can be arrested by police at any time on unreasonable grounds."
"So we don't think we should do the meet-and-greet for new students, given that he can't protect them," he said.
A confusing argument
A new student surnamed Fung said Keith Fong's arrest had been "confusing," and hit out at a police attempt to demonstrate the alleged danger of the laser pointers by making a piece of newspaper smolder at a press conference.
"I felt as if they were trying to mislead the public," Fung said.
"They make out that it is dangerous to carry [a laser pointer], but actually it's just a question of common scientific knowledge. You can make paper burn with a magnifying glass."
Lui Lok-hei, acting president of the HKBU Students' Union, said Chin had actually asked police commissioner Stephen Lo how a pack of unopened laser pointers could be considered an "offensive weapon," as well as questions about the use of excessive force on Keith Fong during the arrest.
Police have also come under fire for using the laser pointer in a way that could have prejudiced judicial proceedings, had Fong been prosecuted.
Chief Superintendent Tse Chun-chung of the police public relations bureau admitted that the laser pointers in Fong's possession hadn't been equipped with batteries at the time of the arrest, and that the intensity of a laser beam is entirely dependent on its power.
"The police absolutely respect and have no intention to influence any judicial process," Tse told reporters. "The only reason for the demonstration of the laser pointer was ... to respond to public concern."
Pro-democracy lawmaker James To said he was unconvinced by the force's argument.
"The level of suspicion was far lower than the level around those men in white shirts who attacked people in Yuen Long on July 21," To said. "There should be some consistency in enforcing the law."
"There should be no bias because of people's political background, or nobody's going to trust your so-called justice system," he said.
Bruce Lui, senior journalism lecturer at HKBU, said laser pointers are commonly used by his profession.
"A lot of HKBU lecturers carry them to use in teaching: that is totally normal," Lui said. "You can buy them in stationery stores on campus or on the street, so it's pretty shocking that Fong got arrested by police for buying them on the street."
Police said on Thursday they had also arrested three people on suspicion of criminal damage linked to the spray painting of the Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower late on Wednesday, as thousands converged on the waterfront and Space Museum with laser pointers and music in an impromptu dance party and light show that ridiculed the police claims and the claims made around Fong's arrest.
The number of confirmed arrests since the anti-extradition movement launched in early June has now reached 443.
Reported by Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.