In August, the SAR government of Macau tabled its national anthem bill to the Conselho Executivo for discussion, and then submitted it to the first standing committee of the Legislative Assembly of Macau for scrutiny earlier this month.
Hong Kong is lagging behind in this regard. It was widely expected that the Hong Kong government would table the bill to the Legislative Council for first reading before its summer break in July, but it didn’t materialize.
And then recently, some pro-establishment lawmakers revealed that the government had already consulted them about the content of the bill, giving them the impression that the administration was all set to launch the legislative initiative.
However, sources in the government have suggested otherwise.
They said that, based on their estimate, it is unlikely that the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau would be able to table the bill to the legislature for first reading before the Nov. 25 Legco by-election because the bureau has its hands full with a number of other issues.
In all likelihood, the bill remains in the drafting stage.
The same sources stressed that the delays have nothing to do with the by-election.
Several pro-Beijing lawmakers agreed, saying that even if the government starts pushing the bill right now, it will have very little or no impact at all on the election prospects of Chan Hoi-yan, the former political assistant with the Food and Health Bureau who is representing the pro-establishment camp in the by-election.
Pro-establishment voters will not reject Chan because of the controversy over the national anthem bill, they said.
Besides, Beijing’s liaison office is not pushing the SAR government to expedite the passage of the legislation. As such, there seems no hurry for Hong Kong to enact the law.
Beijing hasn’t extended the national anthem law of the mainland, which came into effect last year, to Hong Kong. And the embarrassing scenes of local soccer fans booing the Chinese national anthem during international matches have receded in the public memory.
In short, the issue of national anthem legislation has become less urgent and sensitive.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 6
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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