Package Tour Hong Kong: One Month in Luxury Prison

First published: 20th August 2011

Hong Kong is receiving an increasing number of tourists from Mainland China, but one elderly visitor, Zhu Rongchang, a Jiangxi farmer aged 74, hit the headlines on 22nd July because, immediately after crossing the border, he went to Golden Bauhinia Square, lowered the Chinese flag and tried to set light to it. On his arrest he said it was only the Communist Party flag, not the National flag.

Since then, he's been in jail, awaiting trial for desecrating the National Flag. Yesterday he appeared before a magistrate and two odd things happened. The Magistrate, Gary Lam Kar-yan, asked the prosecutors to quickly consider changing the charge to criminal damage, because it would be unfair to leave Mr Zhu in jail too long, and he had admitted damaging the flag. It seems slightly odd that a Magistrate would be unsure what the National Flag is, the National People's Congress has approved the flag, so to suggest it isn't the National Flag surely denies the legitimacy of the NPC. True, the flag is heavy with Communist symbolism - the red field, and the large yellow star representing the leadership of the Party over the sectors of the population represented by the smaller stars, but that doesn't change the approval from the Government. Or is this a matter of mens rea; if the accused does not believe it to be the National Flag, he is not guilty of desecrating that flag, he is merely denying the authority of the Central Government?

But then, the really odd thing happened, Mr. Zhu said that he did not mind being kept in jail because he had never had food that was as tasty before. He was reassured by the Magistrate that the Correctional Services Department would continue to cook for him during his detention. It says something about the level of poverty in Jiangxi that institutionalised canteen food can taste better than anything Mr. Zhu remembers over 74 years.

So, where will this lead? Will Mr. Zhu immediately attempt to re-offend on his release? Will the HKCS catering become famous, and encourage streams of impoverished visitors commit minor offences to experience it? Or will the Magistrate be up-braided for hinting about the Government having weak foundations?

One Country, Two Systems in action.