Date
21 October 2018
Hong Kong is likely to put up the national anthem bill for the first reading before the legislature takes its annual summer recess, observers say. Photo: Bloomberg
Hong Kong is likely to put up the national anthem bill for the first reading before the legislature takes its annual summer recess, observers say. Photo: Bloomberg

National anthem bill may be tabled before Legco summer break

The Law Society of Hong Kong recently issued its submission in relation to the national anthem law, outlining its views on the government’s plan to enact the controversial legislation.

In particular, the Law Society raised doubts about the unclear legal framework proposed by the government, under which key terms such as “derogatory”, “insult” and “respect” aren’t defined.

It fears that such ambiguity might give rise to controversies over the fairness of court decisions in the future.

In the meantime, the Law Society is also deeply concerned that incorporating the provision of nurturing and implementing the core values of socialism of the mainland national anthem law into our local version will violate Article 5 of the Basic Law.

Article 5 stipulates, “The socialist system and policies shall not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.”

It is said that the Hong Kong Bar Association representatives who met with government officials earlier on over the proposed law also raised similar concerns about terms not clearly and precisely defined.

Yet the Bar Association has no intention of issuing any statement on this issue, probably until after the bill has been officially announced.

Government sources say the administration is now digesting and studying the views presented by the two bodies from the legal profession.

They added that the government is also working aggressively to clarify the definition of the key terms and wording in the proposed law and look for legal precedents for reference in order to allay public anxiety.

The sources also clarified that the administration wouldn’t just ‘copy and paste’ every mainland provision of the national anthem law when drafting the bill.

They also cited the reassurance given by Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen during a recent special Legislative Council meeting that the mainland provision about nurturing and implementing the core values of socialism is not going to exist in Hong Kong’s national anthem law, hence no need to be worried about any potential violation of Article 5.

Moreover, the administration has also met with groups from the education sector, and individuals from the cultural and creative industries. It has attended public hearings to listen to opinions from different sectors of the society.

The government stressed it will gather and integrate views from different sectors and study the contents of the bill.

It is believed that the administration is likely to table the bill in Legco for first reading before the legislature takes its summer break in July.

However, given that the national anthem law is so sensitive and divisive, one can expect that the legal profession as well as groups representing different sectors of society will put every single word of the bill under the magnifying glass over the next few months.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 14

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JC/RC

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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