A Hong Kong journalist was jailed after waving a British-Hong Kong flag when China’s national anthem was played at an Olympic award ceremony.
Paula Leung, 42, pleaded guilty to insulting the national anthem by waving the colonial-era flag as the medal ceremony for Hong Kong fencer Edgar Cheung was shown on a big screen at APM shopping mall on July 26, 2021.
On Thursday, the Kwun Tong magistrates’ court sent Leung to prison for three months. According to a magistrate, Leung “seriously disparaged the anthem and damaged the country’s dignity,” reported Channel News Asia. The conviction marks the first time an individual has been jailed for insulting the country’s national anthem.
“The defendant acted in the capacity of a reporter. (Conviction) shows that reporters don’t get a free pass to break the law,” the judge reportedly said.
Amy Chan Wai-mun, the acting principal magistrate, said the journalist had arrived at the mall prepared to desecrate the national anthem and the flag of China. The judge also said that Leung intentionally incited conflicts among people, which could have turned violent.
At the event, hundreds of people gathered to watch Cheung win the gold, some of whom booed China’s national anthem and chanted “We are Hong Kong.”
Individuals who are found guilty of insulting the anthem could be fined and jailed for up to three years under the National Anthem Ordinance law, which became effective in June 2020 in the wake of the pro-democracy protests.
In September, a 43-year-old man was arrested for sedition for playing a pro-democracy tune on a harmonica at Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral vigil in Hong Kong.