Pur­pose no ex­cuse for crime, court hears

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By CAR­RIE QIU in Hong Kong car­rieqiu@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Pur­poses can­not jus­tify law-break­ing deeds, the mag­is­trate pre­sid­ing over the case, in which leg­is­la­tor Cheng Chung-tai was ac­cused of des­e­crat­ing the na­tional and spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion flags, stressed on Fri­day as the case closed in the East­ern Mag­is­trates’ Courts.

The ver­dict was ad­journed to Sept 29. If con­victed, Cheng will face a fine of as much as HK$50,000 and three years in jail for des­e­crat­ing the na­tional flag, and a HK$10,000 fine and one year in jail for des­e­crat­ing the re­gional flag.

If he is sen­tenced to more than one month in prison, he risks be­ing dis­qual­i­fied as a leg­is­la­tor.

Dur­ing a Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil cham­ber meet­ing last Oc­to­ber, Cheng flipped sev­eral flags up­side down amid a stand­off be­tween law­mak­ers over the oath-tak­ing con­tro­versy of two sep­a­ratist law­mak­ers.

Mag­is­trate Cheng Lim­chi said that un­der the Na­tional Flag and Na­tional Em­blem Or­di­nance, the key ar­gu­ment in this case is, first of all, the term “de­fil­ing” — in other words if de­fil­ing the flags has to do with ac­tu­ally dirty­ing or dam­ag­ing the flags. If not, the ar­gu­ment would pro­ceed to whether flip­ping the flags up­side down is des­e­crat­ing.

On that point, the pros­e­cu­tion stressed that com­mon sense should be used in judg­ing this case. The de­fen­dant did not dirty or dam­age the flags but did pub­licly de­mean the flags in the LegCo cham­ber — a sa­cred place where laws are made in Hong Kong. He also made phys­i­cal con­tact with the flags.

The pros­e­cu­tion stressed that de­fil­ing does not nec­es­sar­ily im­ply the ac­tion of dirty­ing or dam­ag­ing the flags. Any ac­tions that in­sult the flags should be con­sid­ered as an of­fense.

The de­fense at­tor­ney ar­gued that at the time of the in­ci­dent, the LegCo meet­ing was dis­rupted and Cheng’s be­hav­ior was to at­tract at­ten­tion of other LegCo mem­bers to re­turn to the cham­ber.

The mag­is­trate re­but­ted the de­fen­dant. “If beat­ing some­one can arouse the at­ten­tion of other peo­ple, can a per­son just go and beat?”

He said the court could not con­sider whether a be­hav­ior is a crim­i­nal of­fense by its pur­pose.

The de­fense at­tor­ney also ar­gued that the de­fen­dant flipped the flags up­side down with “care and at­ten­tion”, which is a sign of “show­ing re­spect to the flags”. The mag­is­trate, how­ever, asked if burn­ing a flag with care and at­ten­tion can be con­sid­ered show­ing re­spect to a flag.

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