A 13-year-old girl has been sentenced to 12 months of probation for burning China’s national flag at a September protest.

The girl earlier pleaded guilty to one count of desecrating the national flag. Prosecutors said she and two other unidentified individuals burned the flag outside Tuen Mun Town Hall while a pro-democracy march took place nearby.

Tuen Mun September 21 protest rally
The national flag burnt on September 21 in Tuen Mun. Photo: inmedia.net.

Magistrate Kelly Shui on Friday said that she could not hand down a lenient sentence “just because the defendant is young,” according to Apple Daily.

Shui added that having read the probation report, she felt the girl was not the type of “reckless” protester she had previously imagined. “Please think about the consequences before carrying out any action,” she told the defendant in court. “It is silly to do things rashly without considering the outcome.”

The one-year probation comes with a curfew as well as a criminal record, the magistrate said.

tuen mun court
Tuen Mun Law Courts Building. File photo: Stand News.

Defence lawyer Douglas Kwok said in a hearing at the Tuen Mun Law Courts that the probation report was favourable to the girl. It said that she knew how to restrain her impulses and express herself in a civilised way, he added.

Kwok also submitted letters from the girl’s secondary school principal and football coach to show that she had a “normal” academic record and took her studies seriously.

On September 21, protesters and police clashed in Tuen Mun after an authorised march was cut short. Riot police fired sponge rounds and pepper spray outside the MTR station and later, officers fired tear gas as black-clad protesters threw Molotov cocktails.

Tuen Mun September 21 protest rally
Tuen Mun protests on September 21. Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

Some demonstrators burned the national flag outside the Tuen Mun Town Hall. The girl was arrested later on the same day.

The government condemned the act in a statement, saying that “some people maliciously trampled and burned a national flag, challenging the national sovereignty.”

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.