The government is still in the process of drafting the bill on the national anthem law, an official said on Monday, adding that he believes it can be presented to the Legislative Council in October.
According to Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, the bill is being fine-tuned before it is submitted to the Executive Council for approval, after which it will be tabled in the Legco.
The proposal is likely to be presented to the legislature in October when lawmakers will reconvene after a summer recess, Nip said.
Previously, there had been reports that the government had aimed to table the controversial bill, which will criminalize disrespect of the China’s national anthem “March of the Volunteers”, before Legco’s summer break, which began last week.
The bill, which follows a decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Nov. 4 last year that Hong Kong must add new legislation into Annex III of the Basic Law in line with a new China law, will seek to penalize those who dishonor the national anthem.
The national anthem law took effect on Oct. 1 last year on the mainland, laying out penalties to those who disrespect the “March of the Volunteers”.
Maliciously modifying the anthem’s lyrics or performing it in a derogatory manner as well as using it as background music in commercial advertisements or in public places are offenses under the law.
Hong Kong is required to enact its own version of the law, a directive that has prompted concerns and criticism.
The bill will curb Hong Kong people’s freedom of speech, critics said, with some also arguing that it doesn’t conform with the city’s Basic Law.
While noting that Hong Kong is obliged to enact local legislation based on the national law, Nip insisted on Monday that the new law does not aim to force the public to be patriotic, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
If one does not deliberately find ways to challenge or insult the anthem, the local legislation will not affect Hongkongers’ usual daily life, he said.
In a media interview, the secretary reiterated that anyone who openly and intentionally insults and derogates the anthem would be held liable according to the law, but the local version of it will fully take real situations in Hong Kong into account
Asked if Beijing has put any pressure on the matter and demanded that legislation be completed as soon possible, Nip did not give a straight answer.
On other issues, Nip stressed that a returning officer always reviews the qualification of a candidate running for an election and makes a decision according to related law and regulations.
It is a must for any candidate to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, he said.
He made the comments in response to a question as to whether pro-democracy activist Lau Siu-lai, who was stripped of her Legco seat by the High Court in July last year for improper oath-taking in October 2016, can join a by-election scheduled for Nov. 25 for the Kowloon West geographical constituency to fill the seat left vacant by her.
Lau has decided to abandon her appeal against the decision on her disqualification and join the Labour Party to pave way for the by-election.
On another topic — the formulation of a development plan for a city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area — Nip said the Greater Bay Area plan’s framework has generally been completed, and that only needs to wait now for the central government to unveil it.
– Contact us at [email protected]