The Hong Kong government has begun work on the legislation process for the national anthem law, and is preparing to put the matter before the Legislative Council’s panel on constitutional affairs for discussion on March 23.
The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau has already tabled a set of documents to Legco last week outlining the details of the legislative initiative.
China’s new national anthem law was passed by the National People’s Congress on Sept. 1 last year, and was listed into Annex 3 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law two months later, which means Hong Kong is now under a constitutional obligation to enact this law.
As far as the mainland national anthem law is concerned, it has 16 articles that regulate various aspects regarding the Chinese national anthem, known as the “March of the Volunteers”, including its rendition, usage and related education.
The first article of the national anthem law stipulates that the legislation is intended “to uphold the dignity of the national anthem, to regulate the way it is played, sung, broadcast and the occasions on which it is used, to enhance the sense of national identity among Chinese citizens, to promote patriotism, as well as to nurture and fulfill the core values of socialism.”
However, it is important to note that among the 16 articles of the mainland national anthem law, only article 15 carries penalties for acts such as tampering with the lyrics or the score of the anthem, as well as derogating or insulting the national anthem.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the violation of protocols during the singing or playing of the national anthem, the law doesn’t mention any punishment for it at all.
As far as the education aspect is concerned, article 11 of the mainland national anthem law requires that the anthem must be “incorporated into the primary and secondary school curricula” across the country.
Now, my question is, is it really necessary to impose education on the national anthem law on schools in Hong Kong in the form of a binding legislation like the one that is being enforced in the mainland?
My answer to this question is a resounding “no”.
It is because even though I agree that under the framework of “one country, two systems”, it is appropriate to educate our students about the national anthem, I believe the actual contents of our primary and secondary school curricula shouldn’t be decided by the law.
Rather, according to our current practice in Hong Kong, the authority to decide what is and what is not taught in our schools rests with the Education Bureau (EDB) and the Curriculum Development Council (CDC).
Over the years, both the EDB and the CDC have been exercising this power through announcing curriculum outlines and issuing local schools with guidelines on what should be taught in class and how, including the national anthem.
For example, according to the recently reviewed “General Studies Curriculum Guide for Primary Schools (Primary 1 – Primary 6) (2017)”, the teaching of the national anthem is listed as a “core learning element” in the first stage, our Primary 1 to 3, of the curriculum.
What is more, regarding the curriculum guide published jointly by the EDB and the CDC, all schools in Hong Kong have a responsibility to observe the rules under the existing mechanism, or else they will be held accountable by the government.
That said, since our city already has a well-established and viable system in place to govern the curriculum contents in class, including the teaching of the national anthem, I just don’t see any need whatsoever of imposing education on the proposed national anthem law in Hong Kong’s schools in the form of a binding legislation.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 12
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]