China: ‘Unforgivable’ for Hong Kong Protesters to Desecrate Chinese Flag

A pro-Beijing protester holds a Chinese flag in support of Tiananmen crackdown during a march in Hong Kong on May 26, 2019, to commemorate the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty

China’s various Communist Party propaganda arms vehemently condemned a Hong Kong protester on Monday for taking down a Chinese flag at Tsim Sha Tsui ferry pier and throwing it in the harbor, “an unforgivable, lawless act” Beijing promised will soon be punished.

The incident occurred on Sunday. A protester was caught on video removing a Chinese communist flag from a flagpole at the ferry and replacing it with a Hong Kong independence flag. The protester, whose identity remains unknown, threw the original communist flag into the water.

The act is a violation of Hong Kong’s controversial “National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance,” which makes “desecrating” in any way the flag of the communist regime of China a crime punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 50,000 Hong Kong dollars ($6,379.95). In response to the large 2014 series of protests against China and subsequent acts of defiance against the Communist Party, the Hong Kong government – only half of which are elected through a democratic vote of people who live in the city – also considered a law this year criminalizing disrespect for the national anthem, including criminal punishment for singing the national anthem poorly. The law also provided for heightened pro-Beijing indoctrination in Hong Kong schools, including imposing the national anthem singing as a ritual for children.

The flag removal occurred amid a wave of protests throughout Hong Kong on Sunday that spilled into Monday, when an estimated half a million Hong Kong residents skipped work, grounding hundreds of flights and bringing the city’s mass transit system to a halt. Protesters targeted icons representing the Communist Party, including the flag and the Golden Bauhinia Blakeana statue in the center of the city, gifted to Hong Kong by Beijing during the 1997 handover.

“Heaven will destroy the Communist Party,” protesters spray-painted onto the bauhinia statue.

Xinhua, the Chinese Communist Party’s official news service, called the flag removal “an unforgivable, lawless act that has blatantly offended the national dignity” and “an insult to all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots” that “must be severely punished in accordance with law.”

“[A]ll these evil acts have exposed the attempts of some radicals and the forces behind them to paralyze the HKSAR [Hong Kong] government, undermine the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, seize control of the HKSAR and use the chaos in Hong Kong to contain the overall development of China,” Xinhua concluded.

“One Country, Two Systems” is the dominating policy in Hong Kong, which allows Hong Kong to self-rule apart from the Communist Party of China so long as it submits to Beijing’s sovereignty. The current wave of Hong Kong protests began

China Daily, a government propaganda newspaper, accused the protester of “blatantly trampling on the national dignity.” The newspaper quoted an unidentified spokesperson for the Hong Kong government stating that removing the flag “hurt the feelings of the Chinese People” and that “such lawlessness must not be allowed and offenders must be brought to justice in accordance with the law.”

China Daily itself gave an opinion against the protesters in a separate column, asserting it was “time the local police of Hong Kong held them [the protesters] responsible for their illegal deeds.” The newspaper claims that, despite the millions that have turned out for protests against China, the majority of those living in Hong Kong are pro-communist “patriots” who will safeguard the city against “rioters”:

A comparison of the two sides shows who truly loves Hong Kong. The rioters are damaging everything and they want to turn the prosperous city into a place of chaos and disorder. If they were to get their way, Hong Kong residents would have to live in fear, while the Hong Kong economy would be severely damaged, because few tourists would want to travel to a city full of violence while no investor would be willing to put their money into the SAR.

“The majority of the Hong Kong people want peace, order, and a prosperous home. The rioters’ are threatening their normal lives,” China Daily insisted. “The future of Hong Kong lies in the hands of these patriotic residents.”

The Global Times, one of China’s more belligerent English-language propaganda outlets, found pro-China “experts” incensed at the spray-painting of the Golden Bauhinia Blakeana statue.

“Vandalizing the Golden Bauhinia Blakeana, which represents the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s autonomy is a direct attack on the rule of the Hong Kong government,” Tian Feilong, a “legal expert,” told the government mouthpiece.

Rather than merely condemn the attackers, the Global Times has also begun attempting to create the illusion of a mass pro-China movement in Hong Kong by filming small groups of “patriotic” Communist Party fanatics raising the Chinese flag. Pro-communist agitators have also begun using a hashtag meaning “the Chinese flag has 1.4 billion bearers” to show outrage against the man who took the flag down.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a statement Monday against the widespread protests, calling them “bullying” and warning that Hong Kong is currently in a “very dangerous situation.” Lam refused to resign, as many protesters demanded, and warned that the “revolution” against China would fail.

C.Y. Leung, Lam’s predecessor, posted on Facebook Sunday that he would offer 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($127,720) for any information on the identity of the man who threw the flag into the harbor.

The current Hong Kong protest movement began in early June, when the Legislative Council (LegCo) began to entertain a bill that would allow China to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong if accused of violating Communist Party law. The protesters continue to demand a full withdrawal of the bill from the legislature, in addition to freedom for pro-democracy political prisoners, an independent inquiry into police brutality, an official statement from the government retracting the description of a June protest as a “riot,” and direct election of all lawmakers.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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