Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Koo Sze-yiu was arrested by appointment on Friday morning on suspicion of having desecrated the national flag on two occasions over the past year.

During a protest in October, the veteran from the League of Social Democrats carried a prop that displayed the Chinese flag upside down. TVB reported that he is also accused having burnt the national flag outside the China Liaison Office – Beijing’s government organ in Hong Kong – in July.

Koo Sze-yiu
Koo Sze-yiu. Photo: League of Social Democrats via Facebook.

It is not the first time Koo has been charged with flag desecration. Last year, he was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment for having burnt the Hong Kong flag during the annual July 1 march in 2015.

He was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment – reduced to four and a half months on appeal – for a similar offence while protesting the suspicious death of mainland dissident Li Wangyang in 2012.

The same April, he also attempted to burn the national flag at the Liaison Office and was given a four-month suspended sentence, reduced to two months on appeal.

‘Like having yum cha’

In a Facebook post, the League of Social Democrats said that Koo chose to demonstrate in this way because he opposed the Communist Party’s “dictatorial” rule in mainland China.

“For me, going to jail is like going to a restaurant and having yum cha,” the League reported Koo as saying before his appointment with the police on Friday.

“After prison I will come back to fight again, then I will go back in prison again – I will not be scared at all.”

2017 one country two system china legco
Koo’s prop on October 1, 2017. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Hong Kong’s National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance is a rare domesticated version of a national Chinese law. According to the ordinance, desecrating the Chinese or Hong Kong flags carries a maximum of three years’ imprisonment.

Earlier this year, lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai was found guilty of the same offence after turning several mini-flags – brought into the Legislative Council chamber by his pro-Beijing colleagues – upside-down. He was fined HK$5,000.

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