Flagging Patience: Police arrest five for allegedly chucking Chinese flag in harbor

Photo Illustration via Flickr/Toby Oxborrow.
Photo Illustration via Flickr/Toby Oxborrow.

Police have arrested five people for allegedly tossing the Chinese flag into Victoria Harbour during a protest in Kowloon earlier this month in an incident that had sent mainland commentators and pro-Beijing figures into a veritable fit of pique.

On Aug. 3, a number of pro-democracy protesters marched to Tsim Sha Tsui following a rally near Mong Kok and gathered near the Harbour City shopping complex on waterfront. One of the protesters removed a national flag being flown on a flagpole outside the mall and threw it into the sea.

On Wednesday and Thursday, police arrested four men and one woman — aged 20 to 22 — in locations across Kowloon and the New Territories in connection with the act, HK01 reports.

According to the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance, anyone who publicly and willfully burns, mutilates, scrawls on, defiles or tramples the national flag or emblem commits an offense and could be imprisoned for up to three years.

News of the flag-chucking had riled up mainland officials and pro-Beijing figures so much that former Chief Executive C.Y. Leung took to Facebook to offer HK$1 million to anyone who could provide information leading to the “radical” perpetrators’ arrest.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office also condemned the action as offending the country and national dignity, while mainland media outlets even went after Harbour City mall for allegedly failing to sufficiently protect the flag.

Supporter of the pro-democracy movement, meanwhile, questioned police’s priorities in arresting the alleged flag-flingers, wondering whether they had pursued recent attacks against protesters by pro-Beijing thugs with the same level of determination.

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