Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has called on citizens not to disrespect the national anthem while work on a related law is in the pipeline, but Hong Kong football fans chose to ignore her plea.
On Thursday night, some fans attending a friendly football match between Hong Kong and Bahrain at the Mong Kok Stadium booed while the national anthem, The March of the Volunteers, was being played, Apple Daily reports.
Hong Kong is legislating its version of China’s national anthem law after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Saturday passed a proposal including the statute in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
The government plans to submit a draft of the bill during the current term of the Legislative Council, Lam told media on Tuesday.
She said the law, which provides jail terms for those intentionally disrespecting or insulting the anthem, is unlikely to take effect retroactively, but she advised the public not to disrespect the anthem or any national emblem during the interlude.
But as The March of the Volunteers was being played before Thursday’s game, boos were heard from the stadium, with some fans turning their backs on the field or giving the anthem the finger.
Immediately after the playing was over, some fans yelled, “We Are Hong Kong!” More rude utterances were heard.
Hong Kong lost the game, 0-2.
A senior local football fan, who refused to stand up and turned his back while the anthem was being played, said enacting a national anthem law is meaningless.
He said instead of the national anthem, a song that is acknowledged by Hongkongers should be played in sporting events like the football match.
Pui Kwan-kay, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Football Association, told media after the game that he was not surprised to hear the boos again.
He said the association will add more manpower to maintain order when the Hong Kong plays against Lebanon in a qualifying match for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Lawmaker Dr. Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, from the pro-Beijing Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, said the fans’ behavior could force Beijing to change its mind and insist that the law be made retroactive.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who represents the legal sector, said he personally does not approve of the act of booing the national anthem.
However, he stressed the government must conduct public consultation to make sure enforcement of the law will not result in serious clashes between police and civilians.
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