Officials succeeded in the first stage of their attempt to overturn a controversial court ruling which acquitted protesters charged with defacing the national flag. The Court of Final Appeal gave the Government the go-ahead to appeal against the decision after a lawyer claimed judges had erred and ignored the basic principles on which the SAR was established. No date was fixed for the appeal. The acquittal in March was welcomed by lawyers and lecturers, saying it helped restore confidence in the independence of the Judiciary. Gerard McCoy SC, for the Government, said yesterday: 'As 'one country, two systems', you have to protect both flags, otherwise you [create a split] that becomes a wedge between the two. 'The bauhinia and the [People's Republic of China] flag are solemn . . . symbols of the unity that the Basic Law commands.' He said the Court of Appeal did not consider this in March when it quashed convictions against activists Lee Kin-yun, 19, and Ng Kung-siu, 25. The protesters were accused of defacing the national flag in a peaceful pro-democracy protest on January 1 last year. 'The court effectively asked itself the wrong questions and answered them incorrectly,' Mr McCoy said. Mr Lee was not in court yesterday, but Mr Ng appeared with his appointed lawyer, Paul Harris. Immediately after judges made their ruling, he dismissed Mr Harris. The lawyer had argued that Mr Ng's act was a potent political message that warranted protection under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as freedom of expression. He said the Government would be undermining this protection if it gave precedence to mainland laws, written in an annexe in the Basic Law. Annexe 3 calls for 'order on the national emblem of the PRC proclaimed by the central people's Government', among other points. 'If it can be done to this, it can logically be done to any law and any right,' he said. 'Mainland law can just be added to the annexe, and I say that can't possibly be right. Eventually it would totally undermine the Basic Law and 'one country, two systems' principle.' Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, Mr Justice Charles Ching and Mr Justice Henry Litton granted the Government leave to appeal against the decision after refusing Mr Ng's request of a two-week adjournment so he could obtain a Chinese translation of the Government's application. 'Isn't that one of the primary duties of a lawyer? To help someone who is linguistically disadvantaged?' Mr Justice Litton asked, before refusing Mr Ng's request. Outside court, Mr Ng said he had dismissed Mr Harris so he could pursue an order for the translation through a lower court.