Govt postpones legislative work on national anthem bill

June 20, 2019 17:56
Legco president Andrew Leung said politically controversial issues should be put aside under current circumstances. Photo: HKEJ

Amid public upheaval over the extradition issue, the government has decided to postpone legislative work on the national anthem bill.

Second reading debate on the bill, which completed first reading in January this year, will not resume before the Legislative Council takes its annual summer recess in July, the government said.

That means the debate on the bill will have to resume in the next Legco year, which begins in October.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen on Wednesday wrote to Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), who chairs the House Committee, to inform her of the decision, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen suggested earlier in the day that politically controversial issues should be put aside under current circumstances.

Leung said Legco needs some time to mend cracks and cool down after the saga of the proposed amendments to the extradition law. There are also many economic and livelihood issues that legislators should handle first, he added.

The government originally planned to resume second reading debate of the controversial bill on June 26. However, the House Committee was unable to make adequate preparations as it was busy dealing with the extradition bill, which has been suspended following two massive demonstrations on June 9 and 12.

The national anthem law, which took effect in the mainland on Oct. 1, 2017, aims to promote respect for the national anthem, The March of the Volunteers, following several instances, such as during football matches, when Hong Kong youths booed, turned their backs on the Chinese flag, and displayed other acts of disrespect while the anthem was being played.

On Nov. 4, 2017, the National People's Congress Standing Committee decided to add the law to Annex III to the Basic Law, which means the city has the constitutional duty to implement the law locally.

Pan-democrat legislators welcomed the government’s decision to delay debate on the national anthem bill.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting pointed out that in light of the extradition controversy, any other contentious legislation is bound to add fuel to the fire, RTHK reported.

Lam believes that, at the moment, it is not suitable for the government to push forward with the national anthem bill or the “Lantau Tomorrow Vision” plan, as it would only add to the public anger.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said he also sees no need to rush the national anthem bill through Legco, the public broadcaster said.

As per Legco's calendar, the council is scheduled to resume seconding readings of the Inland Revenue (Amendment) (Tax Concessions) Bill 2019 and the Judicial Officers (Extension of Retirement Age) (Amendment) Bill 2019 before the summer recess.

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