Five people in Hong Kong have been arrested for removing the national flag from a flagpole in Tsim Sha Tsui and throwing it into the sea earlier this month.
Officers from the police’s organised crime and triad bureau detained four men and a woman, aged 20 to 22, in Mong Kok, Ma On Shan, Sham Shui Po, Ngau Tau Kok and Wong Tai Sin on Wednesday and Thursday.
Police seized computers, mobile phones and clothes from their homes.
They were detained for conspiracy to desecrate the national flag.
The flag, which was flying on one of five flagpoles outside the Harbour City shopping centre, was taken down by several black-clad protesters and thrown into Victoria Harbour on August 3, after tens of thousands of people defied a police ban and marched to the area following an anti-government rally in Tai Kok Tsui.
The flag incident drew sharp rebukes from the city’s leader, mainland authorities and state media.
After the act, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, China’s cabinet, and the central government’s liaison office strongly condemned the protesters involved.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a top advisory body, said on Facebook he would offer HK$1 million (US$127,600) to anyone who could provide information about the act, so the person responsible could be brought to justice.
The editor of the nationalistic state-run tabloid Global Times also lashed out at Harbour City for “kowtowing” to protesters and not doing enough to protect the national flag.
Under Hong Kong law, a person who publicly and wilfully desecrates the national flag can be fined up to HK$50,000 or jailed for three years.