Hundreds gathered at the Hong Kong Space Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui last night to put on what may well be the first ever amateur laser light show held in protest of overzealous policing.
On Tuesday night, Keith Fong, president of the Hong Kong Baptist University Students’ Union, was arrested in Sham Shui Po on weapons possession charges for possessing 10 laser pointers — or, as police labelled them, “laser guns.”
Hong Kong’s long-running pro-democracy protest movement has seen demonstrators repeatedly deploy laser pointers — which are legal to possess — to confuse police and blind security cameras. Police claimed that this qualified the everyday devices as “offensive weapons,” despite the fact that Fong had only just bought the laser pointers and claimed during his arrest that they were for “stargazing.”
The arrest brought a swift backlash, with students’ groups accusing police of “fabricating a charge,” and at least one lawyer publicly questioning how police could have possibly established Fong’s intent to injure someone with the pointers, a key element of the charge.
Last night, protesters gathered around the Stanley Ho Space Theatre to engage in a little “stargazing” of their own, which in this case involved projecting a laser light show on the side of the planetarium to rival even the most psychedelic Laser Floyd display.
— Snufkin (@Anon_Snufkin) August 7, 2019
In a press conference yesterday defending Fong’s arrest, police demonstrated how the beam of one the lasers confiscated could, if held steady for about 20 seconds, burn a hole through a piece of newspaper (around 24:00 in the video below).
Protesters, last night, took it upon themselves to recreate the experiment, holding up a sheet of newspaper as dozens of people shone their laser pointers on it, failing to replicate the same result.
#CyberpunkisNow From Instagram user thecantonesegod , demonstrators in Hong Kong illuminate a newspaper with laser pointers, a mundane tool that has taken on new importance during the mass protests.
— ΜΔDΞRΔS (@hackermaderas) August 8, 2019
They also tried the experiment on nearby trees, to no avail, jeering “it wasn’t on fire!” in mockery of the police, Ming Pao reports.
Hundreds of HKers, armed with laser pointers, turn up at TST for “star gazing.” They say if the common tool for amateur astronomers is as dangerous as the police says, they should be able to light the tree on fire. They’ve been at it for more than half an hour. pic.twitter.com/fIPczSu2Yo
— Wei Du 杜唯 (@WeiDuCNA) August 7, 2019
If police’s intent in arresting Fong had been to discourage the use of laser pointers, it may have actually had the opposite effect, with the electronic gadgets selling like hot cakes last night.
According to the Stand News, hundreds of shoppers were searching for laser pointers at Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po, where Fong was arrested. Laser pointers were sold out in many stores, with some encouraging shoppers to take part in the “unofficial Symphony of Lights” in TST. (The actual Symphony of Lights is a daily light and sound show put on at Victoria Harbour.)
Protesters last night chanted “liberate Hong Kong, a laser pointer revolution,” according to the SCMP, and also projected slogans and artwork on the side of the planetarium.
Some used bright lights to project shadow puppets onto the wall, while others just projected themselves getting funky. (Hey, they’re protesters, not dancers.)
7 Aug 2019, laser pens are safe, not weapon. Hong Kong Police should not arrest students who brought laser pens. pic.twitter.com/GykyVKwdKF
— Flora (@Flora63823031) August 8, 2019
Though police have strongly condemned the use of laser pointers against officers — three of whom they said had been injured by them — authorities have also taken to using powerful beams of light in recent weeks to deter protesters and prevent journalists from filming their activities.
What’s more, a police open house from April of last year listed “laser gun shooting” as a fun activity for kids.