Teenage activist and national security suspect Tony Chung was on Tuesday sentenced to four months in prison for unlawful assembly and desecrating the national flag, after a confrontation between rival groups at the Legco protest area last year.
West Kowloon Magistracy heard how Chung had snatched a national flag from government supporters, detached it from its pole, and threw into the air, as scuffles broke out on May 14, 2019 while lawmakers were vetting the later-abandoned extradition bill.
Passing sentence, magistrate Peony Wong said the defendant's behaviour had been both deliberate and insulting, and had run the risk of provoking the pro-government crowd into taking more "rigorous action".
She said that made the case more serious, even if Chung didn't plan to snatch the flag.
On the unlawful assembly charge, the magistrate noted that there was no evidence to suggest this was a deliberate act and that the amount of violence that ensued was low.
But she said Chung had played an active role when it came to this offence.
The pro-democracy activist's lawyer pleaded for a lenient sentence, saying the 19-year-old was remorseful and had acted on impulse.
The lawyer added that the case was far less serious than others of a similar nature, given that the flag was not damaged and that the whole episode only lasted for around two minutes.
She also submitted eight mitigation letters from Chung’s mother, district councillors, Cardinal Joseph Zen, and others that described him as a kind, helpful and responsible teenager, who often took care of his younger brother who has autism.
But the magistrate said there were no factors that could reduce Chung's punishment.
Chung was already behind bars before the sentence, on remand as he awaits trial on charges of secession, money laundering and sedition.
The teenager is one of four people to be charged so far under the national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong almost exactly half a year ago.