Koo Sze-yiu, a regular face in the city’s radical protests, was sentenced to jail for nine months at the Eastern Magistracy on Thursday for desecrating national and HKSAR flags.
He was convicted of four charges — three counts of national flag desecration and one count of SAR flag desecration.
The charges involve two separate demonstrations that occurred last June and January respectively. The prosecution alleged that Koo had burned and defaced the national flag at “various locations” during the two rallies.
Koo admitted that he had sprayed paint on a Chinese national flag before he torched it with the help of a fellow demonstrator in the June rally. A defaced national flag and a cropped regional flag were presented as evidence at the trial last Friday.
Although Koo denied all the charges, he was sentenced to nine months of imprisonment for the four charges as Magistrate David Chum Yau-fong handed down the ruling on Thursday at the Eastern Magistrates’ Court. The three charges concerning the national flag accounted for six months of jail.
Chum stressed that though he has taken Koo’s freedom of expression into account, the man’s irresponsible and reckless behavior should still be condemned, and the sentencing would provide a deterrent to others who might similarly risk the safety of protesters, police officers and journalists.
Koo has not been represented by a lawyer throughout the trial last week, and he did not ask for a grant of bail to wait for appeal.
The National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance stipulates that any person who wilfully burn, mutilate, scrawl on, defile or trample the flag is liable to a fine of HK$50,000 and imprisonment for up to three years.
Recently, the law has been well-enforced in the city. A 30-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday after he uploaded a photo depicting a defiled national flag to his own Facebook account. Ming Pao reported that there was apparently a trace of human excrement in the photo.
The arrest serves as a reminder that laws in the real world are also applicable to the cyberspace.