Backside flip, Hong Kong. Photo by Jake Darwen.
Alex Lawton recently learnt a valuable lesson in overseas travel. Stopping through Hong Kong on his way back to Australia from a two-week trip to Shanghai with Element, Alex found himself in a nightmare situation.
While in Shanghai Alex had picked up a torch taser at a market – a cheap toy he planned to bring home to keep his mates charged and the sessions lit. But Alex was unaware of the repercussions of carrying the little pocket shocker.
“On the way home I packed it in my bag and thought nothing of it when I checked it in at the airport,” Alex told news.com.au’s Kate Schneider. “I didn’t see any signs saying you couldn’t fly with them.
“We flew via Hong Kong, and while we were in transit at Hong Kong Airport, I was called off the plane and was asked if I was carrying a gun in my bag. Initially I thought it was all a big joke as they rummaged through my bag on the tarmac. I just laughed, thinking that there was nothing inside that would cause a problem.
“Then one of the officials pulled out the torch taser. Again — I laughed and said that it was just a toy! However, it quickly turned serious, when they told me that it was an illegal weapon and they arrested me on the spot.
“I couldn’t believe it and at first I was just in shock. I thought they had made a mistake.”
Backside tailslide, Shanghai. Photo: Jake Darwen.
Under Hong Kong law, stun guns (which includes torch tasers) are classified as banned items – even for those who are just transferring through the airport. Offenders can be slapped a fine of up to HK$100,000 ($16,000AUD) and face imprisonment for up to 14 years. Heavy shit.
Following his arrest, Alex was detained at Hong Kong airport, and asked to fill in several forms. The following day he was taken to a police station, where he was able to call home and speak to his mother.
A court trial followed, where Alex pleaded guilty and apologised for his mistake.
“I told the judge what happened and pleaded with him that I had no idea the torch taser was illegal or in any way harmful, and that I thought it was just a toy. It was such an incredible relief when I was just given a fine (of $417). All I wanted to do was just get on a plane home and end this nightmare.”
Lawton was given a criminal record (being only a minor offence means he is able to return to China) and had to provide DNA samples before finally boarding the plane home.
“Looking back, I know that what I did wasn’t the smartest move,” he says. “Although, I thought to myself at the time that what I was doing wasn’t wrong. Next time I buy anything abroad I’ll definitely check that it’s legal in every country I’m travelling to and through — even if it looks like a toy.”
Read the full article here at news.com.au.
Fakie hardflip, Brisbane. Photo by Jason Morey.
Watch Alex's epic opening section in the Australian chapter of New World Element here.