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Wednesday, January 09, 2019, 22:50
HKSAR govt to table national anthem bill to LegCo on Jan 23
By He Shusi in Hong Kong
Wednesday, January 09, 2019, 22:50 By He Shusi in Hong Kong

In this July 1, 2018 photo, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, fifth front row from left, together with government officials and other dignitaries, attends the flag-raising ceremony for the 21st anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to the motherland and establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

People insulting the national anthem may face a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a HK$50,000 fine, according to the National Anthem Bill released by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government on Wednesday. 

The bill will be tabled to the Legislative Council for local legislation on Jan 23, according to Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen. This follows the country’s National Anthem Law which came into effect on Oct 1, 2017.

It is the constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR Government to implement the National Anthem Law locally

Patrick Nip, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, HKSAR

“It is the constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR Government to implement the National Anthem Law locally,” Nip said. 

“Our legislative principle is to fully reflect the purpose and intent of the National Anthem Law: to preserve the dignity of the national anthem and promote respect for it; and at the same time to show respect to the common law system and the actual circumstances in Hong Kong,” he added.

The bill stipulates that a person may face penalties with a maximum three-year jail term and HK$50,000 fine if he or she publicly and intentionally alters the lyrics or score of the national anthem, or plays and sings it in a distorted or disrespectful way with the intention of insulting it. 

It will also be illegal for a person to intentionally circulating such behavior in order to try to insult the national anthem.

People who misuse the national anthem could face a fine of up to HK$50,000. This includes using lyrics or the score of the national anthem in an advertisement or as background music in a public place. 

These penalties are the same as for the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance, which came into effect in the HKSAR on July 1, 1997 - when Hong Kong returned to China.

The bill also contains standards, etiquette and occasions for playing and singing the national anthem. 

Occasions include major government events, major sporting events and oath-taking ceremonies for the chief executive, principal government officials, judicial officers, members of the Executive Council and legislators. 

ALSO READ: National Anthem Law 'will not affect rights, freedoms'

Nip noted that as contraventions of the bill may involve a large crowd of unidentified culprits - such as those booing the national anthem at a soccer match - or it could involve the use of the internet and social media; sometimes it may be difficult for police to collect the necessary evidence. Therefore, the bill extends the prosecution time from six months to up to two years, Nip explained. 

To promote people’s respect for the national anthem, the bill requires primary and secondary schools to educate students to sing the national anthem properly

A similar practice can be found in existing ordinances, such as the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance and the Energy Efficiency (Labelling of Products) Ordinance, he said. 

To promote people’s respect for the national anthem, the bill requires primary and secondary schools to educate students to sing the national anthem – March of the Volunteers – properly, as well as understanding the history and spirit of it. 

Legal professionals thought the bill is fair. Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a senior counsel and executive councilor, told China Daily that under the “one country, two systems” principle, it is “absolutely acceptable” to ask people to respect and not to insult the national anthem.

He said that by clearly stipulating occasions where people should sing the national anthem would effectively reduce the likelihood of people unconsciously violating the law.

READ MORE: HK to introduce local legislation of National Anthem Law

Agreeing with Tong, barrister and legislator Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said the National Anthem Bill aimed to promote Hong Kong people’s, including legislators’, respect for the anthem - rather than trying to punish anyone.

Leung said she was confident the bill could be passed in LegCo before the summer recess in July - as it is supported by most people in society.

According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong has a duty to enact the law after it was incorporated into Annex III of the Basic Law. 

Previously, some soccer fans in Hong Kong booed the national anthem several times during international matches. This occurred twice in October 2017, when Hong Kong played against Laos and Malaysia.

heshusi@chinadailyhk.com


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