A veteran pro-democracy activist was handed a jail sentence of four months on Thursday for desecrating the Chinese national flag. It is the tenth prison sentence he Koo Sze-yiu has received over the course of 30 years.

Koo Sze-yiu, aged 74, was sentenced at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court for displaying an inverted national flag with slogans such as “white terror,” and “fascist terror” written on it in July last year.

Koo Sze-yiu
Koo Sze-yiu outside the West Kowloon Magistrates Court on Thursday. Photo: League of Social Democrats, via Facebook video screenshot.

The activist displayed the flag outside the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court whilst Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai and eight other pro-democracy figures went to court for alleged participation in an unauthorised assembly.

Hong Kong’s National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance is the 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.

Magistrate May Chung said it was not the first time that Koo – who has stage four rectal cancer – committed the offence, and immediate imprisonment was the only option. Chung deducted a month of jail time from the original 5-month sentence owing to his health.

Koo Sze-yiu
Koo Sze-yiu (second to left) outside the court on Tuesday for his hearing. Photo: League of Social Democrats, via Facebook.

According to local media reports, Koo told Chung “not to pity him” as she was considering his sentence: “Don’t sympathise with me, don’t pity me, don’t be kind to me, because I won’t be kind to the Chinese government,” said Koo in court.

Before going into court, Koo said that his tenth jail sentence “is not a shameful thing.”

“This will be the tenth time I’m going to jail, which says that I’m doing the right thing. It’s not a shameful thing that I’m going to jail – going to the prison is worth it for democracy and human rights…” said Koo.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.