The first person to be imprisoned in the city on a charge of insulting the Chinese national anthem is a woman who carried a British colonial-era flag in celebration of Hong Kong winning Olympic gold.
Online journalist Paula Leung, 42, pleaded guilty to the accusation and was sentenced to three months in jail on Thursday, according to Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK.
Leung waved the flag in a mall where a big screen was showing the medal ceremony following Edgar Cheung’s victory in the foil at the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021. Leung explained in mitigation that she had autism and learning difficulties.
Thousands of people had gathered to commemorate Hong Kong’s second ever Olympic gold medal and its first in fencing, but the scene turned rowdy when the Chinese national anthem was played for the award ceremony and some people began booing.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, continues to represent itself
Cheung’s win was seen by many as a breakthrough for Hong Kong’s athletes and a rare moment of unity in a city that has been rocked in recent years by anti-government protests.
But the use of the Chinese national anthem – “March of the Volunteers” – to mark his victory was controversial as it was the first time the anthem had been used at an Olympics medal ceremony for a Hong Kong athlete. When windsurfer Lee Lai-shan took Hong Kong’s only other gold, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, “God Save The Queen” was played and the British colonial flag of Hong Kong was raised.
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