The proposed local legislation of the national anthem law is scheduled to be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Legislative Council committee on constitutional affairs on March 23.
The question of whether the law should be incorporated into our primary and secondary school curricula is likely to be the major bone of contention among lawmakers at the meeting.
In order to highlight the importance of the proposed legislation, the administration is going to send Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen to attend the meeting and explain the details of the bill to lawmakers, sources said.
Under the newly enacted national anthem law in mainland China, all primary and secondary schools must adopt the national anthem as a key content of their patriotic education program. Schools are required to educate students about the history, spiritual essence and protocols of the national anthem.
However, it is said that the SAR government has decided to scale down the mainland version of the national anthem law a little bit. Under the proposed local law, there would only be a set of guidelines for local schools, and those that fail to follow them won’t face any criminal liability or penalties, the sources said.
The decision has been endorsed by pro-establishment lawmakers during their discussion with government officials on the issue earlier on, the sources said.
Some pro-establishment lawmakers have reportedly agreed that there is no need to impose the law on Hong Kong schools in the form of a binding legislation like the one that is being enforced in the mainland.
After all, the Education Bureau has already issued clear guidelines for local schools on educating students about the national anthem.
There are concerns that imposing the law on schools as a binding legislation could provoke controversies and spark a backlash in society. As such, they have agreed with the government that it isn’t worth the risk.
Besides, what really matters is for the government to show Beijing its resolve and eagerness in enacting the local legislation of the law, so that students can learn to understand the proper protocols regarding the national anthem, and whether or not to strictly enforce it in schools is not the key issue.
Government sources also said the enactment of the national anthem law is not intended to intimidate the people of Hong Kong, and therefore there is absolutely no need for the public to feel apprehensive about it.
Yet given that the issue is politically sensitive, it seems Nip will have his work cut out for him trying to allay public concerns about the enactment of the law in the coming days.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 9
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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