Localist lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai has pleaded not guilty to two counts of desecrating the Chinese and Hong Kong flags after he was seen flipping them in protest during a legislative session last October.

Prosecutors told the Eastern Magistrates’ Court that they would submit video recordings totalling 40 minutes as evidence, reported local paper Ming Pao. But Cheng did not provide them with a statement under police caution.

cheng chung tai civic passion
Cheng Chung-tai. Photo: HKFP.

The prosecution said it would also call on 12 witnesses to testify at the trial.

It is an offence to desecrate the national or regional flags by methods such as “burning, mutilating, scrawling on, defiling or trampling.” It carries a maximum penalty of a HK$50,000 fine and three years behind bars.

No legal representation yet

Cheng, Civic Passion’s sole legislator, was not represented by a lawyer on Tuesday afternoon as his case was mentioned in court.

He told magistrate Bina Chainrai that he only received documents provided by the prosecution two weeks ago. He said he was considering what type of lawyer to hire because the charges he faced were unusual.

“After seeking legal advice, I will hire a lawyer to represent me in my defence,” Cheng wrote on Facebook after leaving the court.

Magistrate Chainrai set the date of his pre-trial review for June 27.

eastern law court
File photo: Eastern Law Courts Building.

Cheng is also facing an investigation by a Legislative Council internal committee over the flag-flipping incident in an effort to disqualify him from his seat.

Chaired by pro-Beijing legislator Priscilla Leung, the committee could order Cheng’s ejection if two-thirds of legislators present vote in favour of doing so.

See also: Localist lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai condemns move to oust him from legislature after flag stunt

After the third closed-door meeting of the committee on Monday, Leung told RTHK that she would call on Cheng himself as a witness to attend future inquiry sessions.

She added that the first inquiry session would also begin in June.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.