The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) expressed strong opposition to a draft of the national anthem law proposed by the Hong Kong government, saying it can restrict freedom of expression and does not conform with the Basic Law.
In its submission on the draft of the bill, the HKJA said the proposal does not clearly stipulate the legal responsibilities media outlets might have to assume when they publish acts that are considered insulting to the national anthem, the March of the Volunteers, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
As such, the bill fails to offer media outlets the protection that they need to be immune to prosecution when carrying out their responsibilities, the HKJA said.
The law took effect on Oct. 1 in mainland China. The SAR government aims to finish the first reading of the bill in July before the summer recess begins.
If the draft is passed, media outlets would be unable to assess if their reports are breaking the law since there are no precedents on what constitutes insulting or derogating the national anthem.
In that case, some would most likely refrain from publishing related stories, which in turn will create a chilling effect that works against free expression, the HKJA said.
The association also criticized the draft for not complying with Article 39 of the Basic Law, which provides that “[t]he provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and international labour conventions as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and shall be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”.
On Nov. 4 last year, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed a proposal to add the new law to Annex III of the Basic Law, which requires Hong Kong to legislate its version of the law and implement it.
The HKJA said some of the punishments listed in the draft are heavier than those implemented in the mainland.
According to the association, one who, in a public venue, deliberately alters the lyrics or the score of the national anthem, or performs or sings the national anthem in a distorted or derogatory manner, or insults the national anthem in any other manner can receive a warning or be detained for up to 15 days by public security departments.
But a person convicted for a similar violation in Hong Kong, as suggested by the bill, may face a fine of up to HK$50,000 and three years imprisonment.
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