A Hong Kong journalist who waved a British-era flag while the Chinese National Anthem was playing in a mall was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday, as pro-independence citizens of Hong Kong struggle under the rule of China.

Paula Leung, a 42-year-old journalist, was arrested after she waved the British-era flag of Hong Kong in a mall that was showing the medal ceremony of Hong Kong athlete Edgar Cheung during the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021, according to CNN.

The scene itself, which was supposed to celebrate Hong Kong’s second gold medal victory at the Olympics, became angry and rowdy once the Chinese National Anthem “March of the Volunteers” played, causing many to start booing and some to yell out “We Are Hong Kong” in protest. Leung herself was arrested for the act four days later.

The former British colony continues to represent itself separately from China in the Olympics despite being returned to the Chinese by the United Kingdom in 1997.

A law was passed in Hong Kong in June 2020 that criminalizes the disrespect of “March of the Volunteers,” and Magistrate Amy Chan said that Leung’s waving of the British-era flag in front of thousands was “demeaning” to the athletes who represented Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

The three-year sentence was given due to what the magistrate saw as an intentional act to express discontent with the Chinese government through the use of the flag, and the belief that it could have enticed violence and a “dangerous situation” on the thousands of people watching.

Leung’s defense said that she was autistic with a low IQ level, and her lawyer defended her by saying that she was acting alone, and that no violence actually happened when the flag was waved during the medal ceremony.

Pro-democracy Hong Kong citizens have used the British-era colonial flag as a symbol of the resistance against Chinese rule. Many citizens also showed up in the British embassy to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II after she had died as a subtle act of protest.

Hong Kong Journalist Sentenced Rep. Pic
A Hong Kong journalist was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday after she had flown a British-era flag during the Chinese National Anthem. This is a representational image. Cheung Yin/Unsplash.

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