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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong Legco motion to kick out localist who upended China flag fails

Cheng Chung-tai wins support of 24 pan-democrats and a medical sector lawmaker to survive censure motion, brought after he flipped pro-Beijing members’ miniature local and national flags

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2018, 7:00am

A localist lawmaker who upended miniature Chinese and Hong Kong flags during a Legislative Council meeting two years ago survived a vote on kicking him from the chamber on Thursday.

The censure motion against Cheng Chung-tai, launched by pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun, required the support of two-thirds of the 65 lawmakers present to pass.

It was rejected by 25 objection votes from 24 pan-democrats and medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan Pui-yin, and supported by 39 pro-government legislators. Cheng was absent from the vote, to avoid conflict of interest.

The incident took place in October 2016, when Cheng flipped national and regional flags displayed by pro-establishment camp lawmakers during a council meeting, one week after some localist and pan-democrat lawmakers were condemned for altering their oaths of office.

Cheng was fined HK$5,000 (US$636) after being found guilty of desecrating the national and Hong Kong flags, in September 2017.

[Cheng’s] mistake has been judged and punished by the court. To disqualify him as lawmaker with a censure motion… is an obvious act of persecuting the opposition
Alvin Yeung, Civic Party

While the pro-democracy camp, which already had six lawmakers disqualified over the oath-taking saga, said Cheng’s act was wrong and “childish”, all of those who spoke during the meeting voiced opposition to the censure motion.

Civic Party leader Alvin Yueng Ngok-kiu said censure motions should be used to handle “political issues” that cannot be settled in court.

“[Cheng’s] mistake has been judged and punished by the court. To disqualify him as lawmaker with a censure motion… is an obvious act of persecuting the opposition,” Yeung said.

Wu Chi-wai, who chairs the Democratic Party, said it was “not ideal” that there was only one punishment for misbehaving lawmakers, and suggested introducing more options.

Speaking after the vote result, Cheng said his flag-flipping was not intended as an insult. 

“If I wanted to desecrate the flag I wouldn’t have done it this way,” he said.

He did not thank the pro-democracy camp for supporting him, saying it was a lawmaker’s responsibility to vote. 

“If I say ‘thank you’ to the pro-democracy camp, it seems [to be] a kind of disgrace to them,” he said.

The motion was launched after an investigation committee of seven pro-establishment lawmakers spent 13 months probing the incident.

The committee, headed by Business and Professionals Alliance legislator Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, concluded that Cheng’s “conduct of openly and deliberately humiliating the national flag and regional flag constitutes both a breach of oath and misbehaviour”.

Leung said on Thursday that she had expected the motion to fail, and that the committee had tried its best to show the public a clear stance on Cheng’s act.

In the future, she said, the council could consider amending its rules of procedure to introduce more levels of punishment for misconduct.

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“The options include removal from office, suspension, reprimand, reduction of salary, fines and requiring the lawmaker to issue a public apology,” she said.

Starry Lee Wai-king, who chairs the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s biggest pro-establishment party, said Cheng should not even have been allowed to run in the 2016 Legco election.

She said Cheng’s flag stunt, and his past advocacy of localism, were evidence he had no intention of upholding the Basic Law.