Angry flag-wavers heckle Hong Kong legislator before first court appearance for ‘defiling’ flags
Civic Passion leader Cheng Chung-tai flipped the small flags over in the Legco chamber
An angry crowd of pro-establishment protesters greeted a localist lawmaker with a dozen red flags as he made his first court appearance on Tuesday to face charges of desecrating the Hong Kong and Chinese flags in the Legislative Council last year.
But Civic Passion leader Cheng Chung-tai avoided confrontation by walking from another side of Eastern Court and turning his back to the sea of red caps and flags, ignoring protesters who shouted: “Cheng Chung-tai does not deserve to be a lawmaker.”
There were about 30 protesters from a pro-establishment group, waving both Hong Kong and China flags.
Cheng, 33, was charged with one count of desecration of the national flag and another over the regional flag. Both crimes carry a HK$50,000 fine and three years’ imprisonment.
Prosecutors alleged that Cheng publicly and wilfully defiled the flags inside the Legco chamber on October 19, 2016. They were small flags, one local and one national, placed side by side at each legislator’s seat.
The case was set for plea on Tuesday afternoon, but Cheng asked that it be adjourned to May 16 so he could find a lawyer. Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai agreed.
At issue was whether Cheng repeatedly turning the flags upside down amounted to “defiling”, which is not explicitly defined in law.
When asked if Cheng had to rely on the dictionary definition to prepare his defence, prosecutor Derek Lai said a Court of Final Appeal judgment had defined it as “dishonouring”.
That judgment upheld the convictions of Ng Kung-siu and Lee Kin-yun for carrying defaced national and regional flags during a rally in January 1998. The pair were bound over for HK$2,000 and ordered to keep the peace for 12 months.