HK protests: technician jailed for 4 years and 7 months for desecrating flag, burning barriers

21-Oct-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

A solar panel technician has been jailed for four years and seven months for desecrating the national flag and burning water-filled barricades during the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

District Judge Anthony Kwok Kai-on on Wednesday found Wong Cheuk-lai, 24, had displayed “terrible conduct” and played a key role in the spontaneous destruction of the Chinese flag at Tung Chung Swimming Pool on September 1 that year, by tearing it down and spray-painting a security camera to cover up the act, which seriously undermined national dignity.

The flag was later passed to other protesters who stuffed it into a rubbish bin before taking it out to wipe the container and two ash trays. It was then dumped on the ground and set on fire.

“Imprisonment was the only option,” Kwok said. “Had the defendant not been involved, the flag may not have been successfully dismantled, desecrated and destroyed.”

The judge also noted that Wong had been surrounded by 50 protesters at the time, adding it was only fortunate that his flag desecration did not incite others to commit further crimes when emotions were running high.

The District Court heard the incident was the first of a series of crimes Wong committed on the same day.

On top of flag desecration and criminal damage, Wong was also found guilty earlier this month of attempted arson for dousing flammable liquid over a roadblock, as well as arson for lighting a water-filled barrier belonging to Hip Hing Construction.

Mitigation letters subsequently filed to the court depicted Wong as a kind, loving and helpful hard worker.

Wong also wrote to the judge, stating that he regretted his impulsive behaviour that stemmed from his dissatisfaction with the state of society.

Defence counsel Douglas Kwok King-hin drew the court’s attention to his client’s lack of planning and organisation, arguing that the offences caused limited property damage and minimal threat to life, even for arson as the fire was quickly put out.

But while the judge accepted those arguments, he concluded that a deterrent sentence was still needed, given that Wong had expressed his frustration and challenged the rule of law during an illegal assembly.

Wong was also ordered to pay the construction company HK$880 over the damage of four water-filled barricades.

Flag desecration carries a maximum sentence of three years in jail and a HK$50,000 (US$6,428) fine, while arson is punishable by life imprisonment but that term is capped at seven years when the case is heard at the District Court.


Category: Hong Kong

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