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Hong Kong lawmaker guilty of desecrating Chinese flag
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 29, 2017


Hong Kong democracy rally marks China national day
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 1, 2017 - Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday to mark China's national day with a pro-democracy rally and voice growing fears that the city's liberties are under threat from Beijing.

The protest which was dubbed an "anti-authoritarian rally" also comes after recent arrests of prominent pro-democracy activists, including a former lawmaker, have renewed anti-China sentiment.

A number of other activists, including founding members of mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014, which blocked thoroughfares for 79 days, are also facing charges and possible jail terms.

"Authoritarian rule has already become Hong Kong's reality in Hong Kong," Benny Tai, one of the founders of the movement told protesters.

"We are having today's rally ... because we hope more Hong Kong people will see the true nature of the government," Tai, a law professor, said.

Participants in Sunday's rally singled out the city's leader Carrie Lam and justice secretary Rimsky Yuen, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping with their pictures placed on placards saying "authoritarian clown".

Others carried a black banner mimicking the Chinese national flag with five yellow stars drawn on it, with around 5,000 taking part in the rally, according to estimates by an AFP reporter at the scene.

University student Vince Ho, 21, said the authorities' hardline approach was likely to spur others into action.

"I think it would even encourage more people to come out to redress the injustice," she said.

Tens of thousands joined the Umbrella Movement which started in September, 2014 to call for fully free leadership elections in the city, but failed to convince the government to make concessions over political reform.

The face of the Umbrella Movement Joshua Wong, former lawmaker Nathan Law and fellow protest leader Alex Chow were sent to prison in August for their leading role in the initial protest that sparked the movement.

A Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker on Friday was found guilty of "desecrating" the Chinese and Hong Kong flags by turning them upside down in parliament, but escaped a prison sentence.

Cheng Chung-tai upended small Chinese and Hong Kong flags that some pro-Beijing legislators had displayed on their desks in the legislative assembly last October.

The incident happened during a feisty session in which two pro-independence lawmakers were barred from taking up their seats in a row over an oath-taking ceremony.

Under Hong Kong law, it is an offence to desecrate national and regional flags by "publicly and wilfully burning, mutilating, scrawling on, defiling or trampling on them".

Cheng was found guilty on one count of desecrating the national flag and one count of desecrating the regional flag by a magistrates' court Friday.

He was handed a HK$5,000 ($640) fine, though each charge carries a maximum penalty of a HK$50,000 fine and three years in jail. Cheng had previously pleaded not guilty.

Cheng's lawyer had argued that he did not cause any physical damage to the flags, but magistrate Cheng Lim-chi said it happened in a symbolic place.

The lawmaker said the whole process was "ridiculous".

"I would say today's verdict serves to remind Hong Kong residents that our society is not open or has democracy and freedom, we are facing an authoritarian government," he told reporters after the hearing.

The city was handed back to China by colonial ruler Britain in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula.

But there are concerns China is interfering in the semi-autonomous city, eroding its freedoms and way of life.

The face of Hong Kong's pro-democracy campaign, Joshua Wong, former lawmaker Nathan Law and fellow protest leader Alex Chow were sent to prison in August for their leading role in the initial protest that sparked the months-long Umbrella Movement of 2014 -- demonstrations and street blockades calling for democratic reforms.

Their jailing has been slammed by international rights groups and politicians and has prompted accusations that the independence of Hong Kong's courts has been compromised under pressure from Beijing.

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Seesaw US-China ties on an upswing as Trump plans trip
Washington (AFP) Sept 28, 2017
The often difficult relations between the world's greatest powers, China and the United States, appear to be improving again as the pair work to resolve the North Korea nuclear stand-off. Washington, and in particular US President Donald Trump, have until very recently been critical of Beijing's cautious approach to its belligerent and nuclear-armed neighbor. But, with a new round of UN- ... read more

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