Zakaria Mezouar, a 36-year-old Moroccan national, was found guilty of desecrating the regional flag of Hong Kong but acquitted of a similar charge related to the Chinese national flag.
The decision was made by acting principal magistrate Daniel Tang Siu-hung at the Kwun Tong Court, British news outlet The Standard reported on Thursday.
The charges against Mezouar stemmed from an incident in October 2022 when he took down a total of 24 flags, including 12 Chinese national flags and 12 Hong Kong regional flags, in the North Point area.
The act of flag desecration occurred amid a display of some 200 national and regional flags on the streets of Hong Kong Island.
Mezouar’s actions were captured on camera as he removed the flags and tossed them onto the streets.
During the trial, Mezouar claimed that he could not recall the events clearly due to his intoxication, citing personal difficulties in his life, including a divorce in 2021, which had driven him to excessive drinking.
In his verdict, Magistrate Tang considered the specifics of the charges. Under the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance, the exact wording for the charge related to the Chinese national flag is “intentionally,” implying a specific intent to desecrate.
The prosecution failed to prove this specific intent, leading to Mezouar’s acquittal on this charge, according to the report.
However, regarding the charge of desecrating the regional flag, the law employs the term “willfully,” which Tang interpreted to include recklessness. As such, it was not necessary for the prosecution to demonstrate a specific intent in this case, leading to Mezouar’s conviction on the charge related to the Hong Kong regional flag.
During the trial, it was noted that Mezouar’s behavior at the time indicated potential intoxication, as he was observed waving his arms and yelling incoherently.
Mezouar was subsequently granted bail and is set to be sentenced on September 14, pending the submission of probation and community service reports.