Written by Reuters
23 Jan, 2019 | 11:33 am
Reuters – Hong Kong’s government is planning to present a controversial bill to lawmakers on Wednesday (January 23) that, if eventually approved, would punish anyone who disrespects the Chinese national anthem with up to three years in jail.
Demosisto Secretary-General Joshua Wong is one of many activists who oppose the new legislation, which will criminalise any form of disrespect to the anthem, including political parodies such as those that have previously been issued on Demosisto’s social media channels.
“Anyone just make a joke, or just hope to use a different way to play the national anthem, will already face a risk to be prosecuted by the government,” said Wong.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Holden Chow, who supports the proposed legislation, believes the booing of the national anthem at football matches is a strong reason to support the new law. In the past few years, some Hong Kong football fans have booed the national anthem at soccer matches as a form of political protest as youths express frustration at Beijing’s increased influence over the former British colony.
The global financial hub returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a so-called “one country, two systems” formula that promises the city a high degree of autonomy, including freedom of expression.
The anthem proposal is expected to pass easily when it comes to a vote – probably before the summer – as the opposition does not have enough seats to block routine legislation. A new law banning disrespect for the anthem came into force in mainland China in 2017, but it was not automatically applicable to Hong Kong. A similar national anthem bill is currently under review in the Chinese special administrative region of Macau. Hong Kong has already outlawed the desecration of national flags and emblems, which can attract jail terms of three years.
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