Purpose no excuse for crime, court hears
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.