23 February 2019
China's national anthem law will aim to prevent incidents such as the one in 2015 when Hong Kong football fans booed the national song before a game. Photo: Reuters
China's national anthem law will aim to prevent incidents such as the one in 2015 when Hong Kong football fans booed the national song before a game. Photo: Reuters

Concerns in HK as China readies new national anthem law

China is preparing a new law in relation to the national anthem, the March of the Volunteers, a move that will also have repercussions for Hong Kong people.

On Monday, the draft legislation was given a second reading by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), with tough punishments proposed for anyone who shows disrespect to the national anthem or misuses or mocks the song.

The new law, whose draft could be finalized in October and passed by the parliament before the end of the year, should be also applied to Hong Kong, mainland authorities said.

It must be included it in Annex III of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, which lists applicable national laws, at proper time, according to the proposal.

According to the draft, which NPCSC members began to deliberate in June this year, maliciously modifying the anthem’s lyrics or performing it in a derogatory manner will constitute a punishable offense.

The legislation will encourage people to sing the anthem to express patriotism, but will come down hard on those who use it inappropriately.

Under the proposal, it is illegal to use the national anthem at funerals and other “inappropriate” private occasions, in commercial advertisements or as background music at public places, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

When the national anthem is played during appropriate occasions, people should immediately show respect by standing up straight and being solemn.

Violators could face a warning or detention of up to 15 days. There may be criminal liability if a person is convicted.

The draft law, meanwhile, states that the national anthem should be taught to students in primary and secondary schools, as part of the pupils’ patriotic education.

Some Hong Kong lawmakers have expressed concern over the proposed application of the national anthem rules in Hong Kong through the Basic Law annexure route.  

Lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who represents the legal sector, pointed out that it is not proper for the government to enforce national anthem law by resorting to Article 18 of the Basic Law.

To ensure Hongkongers’ current freedom and rights are protected, the law must pass through local legislation process, Kwok said.

He added that forcibly making the national anthem part of school education materials may violate the Basic Law, which allows Hong Kong to decide its education policies by itself.

Executive Council member Ip Kwok-him, who is a Hong Kong deputy to the National people’s Congress (NPC), said Hongkongers must realize it will be against the law to boo the national anthem in the future.

He referred to an incident in 2015 when several Hong Kong football fans booed China’s anthem before a match between Hong Kong and China at the Mong Kok Stadium for a qualifying round of the 2018 World Cup.

Ng Leung-sing, a Hong Kong deputy to NPC and a former lawmaker, said it should not take too long before the new national anthem law is enforced in Hong Kong, reported.

The timing could be sometime next year, given what we have seen in relation to the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance, Ng was quoted as saying.

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