A Hong Kong journalist has been sent to three months in prison for waving the British-Hong Kong flag last year at a shopping mall during the streaming of the Olympic award ceremony for fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long.
Paula Leung Yan-ling, 42, waved the colonial-era flag at the APM shopping centre on 26 July 2021 when the Chinese national anthem was playing on a big screen during the award ceremony.
The journalist was arrested and charged with insulting the national anthem for waving the colonial-era flag, which has not been used since the city’s handover in 1997.
The Kwun Tong magistrates' court on Thursday made the first conviction under the National Anthem Ordinance after Ms Leung pleaded guilty to the charges.
Critics fear the Chinese government would abuse the legislation, which came into force in June 2020 in the wake of the pro-democracy protests, to curb dissent against the administration.
Under the law, anyone found guilty of misusing or insulting the anthem could be jailed for up to three years and fined.
Acting principal magistrate Amy Chan Wai-mun while passing the judgment said the reporter arrived at the mall well prepared in advance to insult and desecrate the national anthem and the SAR flag, according to The Standard.
The judge added that Ms Leung intentionally incited conflicts among people with a different political stance, which could have turned violent.
“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 said.
While the jail term was initially set to four and a half months it was later reduced to three months.
Earlier in September, a man was arrested for sedition after he played the harmonica at a vigil for Queen Elizabeth II, under a colonial-era law that once outlawed insulting the monarch.