Hong Kong [China], December 12 (ANI): As China continues to clamp down on Hong Kong pro-democracy activism, a student activist, Tony Chung Hon-lam, was found guilty of flag desecration and participation in a protest over the now-withdrawn extradition bill last year.
Magistrate Peony Wong Nga-yan on Friday concluded that Tony, 19, had publicly undermined the dignity of the national flag by tugging at it with two unidentified people outside the legislature, breaking its pole in the process, then throwing it into the air without regard as to where it might land, reported South China Morning Post.
"Without a doubt, the defendant had deliberately desecrated the flag," she ruled.
The magistrate also said Tony must have known that his action of pulling the flag would likely to be considered as a breach of peace.
Tony was convicted of one count of desecrating the national flag and another of taking part in an unlawful assembly. Both offences are punishable by a fine and up to three years in prison.
Last year, prosecutors had accused Tony of damaging a national flag that belonged to Defend Hong Kong Campaign when the pro-establishment group assembled in the designated protest area of the Legislative Council.
According to South China Morning Post, before being charged, Tony attempted to seek protection at the US consulate, but was arrested before he managed to enter the building. That case will be heard again in January.
Before being led away from the dock, Tony shouted: "Hongkongers hang in there."
In October, the activist was charged with secession under the draconian national security law, along with two other offences.
During the trial, campaigner Fu Chun-chung said he was hanging a banner that day when a group of protesters including Tony scolded and swore at him, despite warnings from police and security guards.
Tony's arresting officer had also testified to his admission, allegedly given under caution when he was arrested for criminal damage eight days later.
The activist stressed that he was unaware of holding a national flag when someone passed him a piece of red cloth attached to a broken stick when he approached Fu's group after seeing some 10 members pulling a woman's backpack.
However, the magistrate ruled that Tony's admission was made voluntarily, knowing that it could be used against him. She repeatedly watched the footage of the incident in both regular and slow-motion modes, down to milliseconds, to conclude Tony had pulled the flag, ran off and threw it away, South China Morning Post reported.
She also rejected Tony's explanation of trying to protect others from getting hurt by a dangerous, broken object.
He will be sentenced in West Kowloon Court on December 29, pending reports on his suitability for a training, detention or rehabilitation centre.
The development comes amid a stringent crackdown against pro-democracy activists and politicians by the pro-Beijing administration, and several arrests have been made since the passing of the security law, which is deemed as draconian by people of Hong Kong and countries like the United States.
Earlier this week, Hong Kong police arrested eight people including two district councillors in connection with a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration last month on the Chinese University campus, Hong Kong Free Press reported citing local media.
Following that, activist Agnes Chow Ting was denied bail pending her appeal of a 10-month prison sentence for her role in a siege of police headquarters during last year's anti-government protests against the security law.
The national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong criminalises any act of secession (breaking away from China), subversion (undermining the power or authority of the central government), terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison. The law has been extensively criticised by several countries. (ANI)