Explainer: what will China’s national anthem law mean for Hong Kong?

by Jeffie Lam / August 30, 2017/ SCMP

Hong Kong made headlines after hundreds of its soccer fans booed during the Chinese national anthem ahead of a World Cup qualifier between the city’s representative team and China in 2015.

Back then, the local soccer governing body was fined by international football authorities over the jeering. But such acts could soon become punishable by law in Hong Kong under proposed national anthem legislation currently making its way through the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature.

Beijing has made known its intention to have the law applied to Hong Kong as well as the mainland, arguing it would help foster social values and promote patriotism. But Hong Kong’s opposition pro-democracy politicians expressed concerns that the law would be too wide in scope and vague enough to hamper freedom of expression and creativity. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has urged Hongkongers not to be overly sensitive and politicise the issue. The proposed law also comes against a backdrop of growing separatist sentiment in Hong Kong.

1. What is the national anthem law about?

A draft of the national anthem law, first proposed in June, had its second reading by the NPC Standing Committee, the executive body of the national legislature, on Monday.

The proposed law has sparked controversy over the harsh sanctions it would impose for any malicious revisions to the lyrics or derogatory performances of China’s national anthem, March of the Volunteers.

According to Chinese state media, such transgressions would be punishable by up to 15 days in detention.

The law would place a range of restrictions on Chinese citizens. It would ban people from playing the anthem at events such as funerals or using it as background music in public places. It would bar use of the anthem in commercial advertisements, and require attendees at events to stand up straight “solemnly” when the anthem plays.

The bill also covers education, and promotion of the song. It states that the anthem should be included in primary and secondary school textbooks, and that people should be encouraged to sing it on the proper occasions to “express patriotism”

Key for Hongkongers is the prospect that the law could also be applied in the special administrative region. The Beijing News reported on Monday that the NPC Standing Committee would officially propose at its bimonthly meeting in October that the legislation be inserted into Annexe III of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Annexe III lists the mainland laws that should also apply in Hong Kong.

2. Why would Beijing propose such a law?

Zhang Haiyang, deputy head of the NPC’s law committee, described the legislation as “feasible, necessary and of great significance” to foster and practise the country’s socialist core values and promote a patriotic spirit.

Shen Chunyao, head of legislative affairs for the committee, said earlier that a standard version of the anthem should be adopted, and that the new law would help stamp out improper behaviour when it is sung. Read more…



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