Hong Kong activist jailed for burning Chinese flag

A prominent Hong Kong political activist has been jailed for nine months for burning both the Chinese and city flags during anti-Beijing protests, court officials said on Friday.

Pro-democracy campaigner Koo Sze-yiu was sentenced by a magistrate's court on Thursday on four charges -- three of desecrating the national Chinese flag and a fourth of desecrating the Hong Kong flag, a judiciary spokeswoman told AFP.

"When I am released, I will do this again," Koo told the court, according to the South China Morning Post.

Koo said he burnt the national and regional flags because he was unhappy with the regime in mainland China, which he claims killed Chinese dissident Li Wangyang, and over the jailing of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, the SCMP reported.

The charges against Koo, 66, came after he burned a Chinese flag outside the central government's liaison office in June last year, during a protest to commemorate the death of Li.

He was also seen with damaged Chinese and Hong Kong flags at a demonstration against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who is considered by critics as a stooge for Beijing, on January 1 this year.

Hong Kong saw massive anti-Beijing protests last summer with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets when Chinese President Hu Jintao swore Leung into office, amid growing discontent over the influence of the mainland.

Speaking in court Thursday, magistrate David Chum said the flags had to be protected.

"Every country has her national flag... it is the symbol of the country and represents its dignity," he said, according to the SCMP.

Under Hong Kong's National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance, anyone who defaces the flags faces a a jail term of up to three years.

Koo was also part of a crew which landed in August on an island chain, known as the Senkakus in Japanese and Diaoyus in Chinese, which is disputed by China and Japan.

Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory with its own political and legal system that guarantees civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including the right to protest, was returned to China by Britain in 1997.

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