Cell Phone Repair Shop Owner Arrested and Remanded in Prison in Hong Kong for Over 2 Years Without Trial

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Lai Chen-pong, a 28-year-old mobile phone repair shop owner in Mongkok, 3C Repair Studio, was a dedicated supporter during the Anti-extradition Protests in 2019.

Lai was arrested by the Hong Kong Police and charged with the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance (Cap. 575), Prohibition of Explosions with Specified Targets.

Lai has been remanded in jail since September 2020.

On the eve of the International Human Rights Day Rally on Dec. 8, 2019, police claimed to have found many weapons, including pistols and bullets and arrested 13 people.

First Person Charged with UN Law in HK

For the first time, the Department of Justice of Hong Kong prosecuted ten of the 13 people for “prohibiting the explosion of specified targets,” citing the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations.

Lai was among the ten people arrested.

Staff of 3C Phone Repair Shop conveyed a message on behalf of the owner on Facebook that the cell phone repair shop has closed down permanently since March 5.

The message also revealed a letter from the owner from behind bars to his customers. Lai expressed he has been having “a really, really difficult time in prison.”

Lai could not believe he had been in prison for over 900 days since police arrested him in 2020. The owner said in the message that he wanted to focus entirely on his coming trial in 2024, he decided to shut his shop from Mar. 5 onward.

Lai thanked his customers for their support and reminded everyone always to remember the people and things that mattered.

HKPF’s Mental Torture

According to the case data, on Jul. 3, 2019, the police first arrested Lai Chen-pong for the “disclosure of personal data obtained without the consent of a data user” initially.

Then, after he was granted bail on Jan. 17, 2020, the police arrested Lai again, but this time for “conspiracy to wound with intent.” And later, Lai was re-released on bail.

On Sep. 5, 2020, the National Security Bureau claimed that Lai had conspired to wound with intent and arrested him for it.

It was the last time police arrested Lai, and he has been in jail since.

Intention to Harm Police with Weapons

For the first time in history, the police cited the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations to prosecute 13 men and women in July 2020, including Lai.

The police announced on Dec. 8, 2020, the night before the International Human Rights Day Rally, they arrested 13 people, including Lai, for intention to harm the police with the pistols, bullets, samurai swords, sabers, and homemade bombs found in many districts around Hong Kong.

The Magistrate heard the case in October 2022 and handed it to the High Court to finalize the process.

According to the law, once convicted, “prohibiting the explosion of a specified target” is punishable by life imprisonment.

Lai’s repair shop was under surveillance, and the owner was arrested on Jan. 17, 2020. At the time, 3C Cell Phone Repair announced that the police confiscated 20 items, including customers’ phones and computers, pending repair as evidence, a total of nearly HK$40,000 (US$5,100) worth of income.

On March 19, 2020, 3C released a telephone recording on its Facebook page. In the recording, someone called Lai, claiming to be a police officer. However, the person did not provide his name, position, or other information to confirm his identity.

The man, who claimed to be a policeman, said he wanted to meet Lai in person on the same day, hoping to “clarify something” because of “Lai’s previous report on his stolen car.”

Lai did not respond to the meeting request.

On Apr. 2, 2020, 3C shared a Facebook post of Joshua Wong Chi-fung, a social movement leader and activist. In the post, Wong pointed out to the public how the Hong kong police had been unlocking and cracking protesters’ phone passwords of protesters using Israeli software to obtain their phone records and messages illegally.

At that time, Wong and 3C suspected not only the police would crack cell phones using illegal means, but they would also forge evidence to “force a person to confess or plead guilty, or to release the person and tell everyone they were a snitch and sell out.”

On May 3, 2020, 3C’s Facebook stated that one of its employees was stopped and searched by the police near the office. A uniformed officer suspected the employee, Jai, was “carrying a bomb in his bag.”

Jai replied and told the officer that he had screwdrivers for fixing cell phones.

The police warned him, “You’d better watch out. We are onto you.”

After the National Security Law was implemented in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, 3C wrote on Facebook on Jul. 19, 2020, that the shop encouraged protesters to carry on with perseverance and said it would support them the best way it could. The shop called on people to continue to support yellow shops, which supported democracy and freedom.

The same post also mentioned that everyone in Hong Kong was busily self-censoring before the evil law (National Security Law). Lai reminded people not to live in fear and not to allow the national security law to become the most pervasive self-censorship tool.

On Sep. 5, 2020, the national security Bureau sent officers to 3C and arrested Lai Chen-pong. Lai refused the head cover and stated he had done nothing wrong. But the police put on the head cover and said Lai had no say in wearing it.

On the evening of Sep. 5, 2020, police took Lai back to his residence for a search.

On Oct. 16, 2020, while Lai was still in custody, Joshua Wong visited the 3C Shop and urged people to support yellow shops (businesses that support the fight for freedom in Hong Kong) on Facebook live.

Lai Chen-pong is the first case in which the Department of Justice used the U.N. Regulations to charge someone in Hong Kong.

The Trial Is Pending for Another Year

According to the Justice Department’s website, Lai’s trial (number: HCCC164/2022) will begin in the High Court on Feb. 19, 2024, and is expected to take 60 days.

In other words, Lai will have been remanded in custody for over 1200 days, three and a half years, before he is even found guilty of the crime.


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