China extends national anthem law to HK, Macau

Hong Kong fans hold banners and character signs during the 2018 World Cup qualifying match between Hong Kong and China.
Hong Kong fans hold banners and character signs during the 2018 World Cup qualifying match between Hong Kong and China. PHOTO: REUTERS

Police can hold those showing disrespect for anthem; move seen as undermining HK's autonomy

BEIJING • China's Parliament yesterday formally extended a law banning disrespect of the national anthem to cover Hong Kong, a move that critics have said undermined the Chinese-ruled city's autonomy and freedoms.

In the past few years, some Hong Kong football fans have booed the Chinese national anthem during World Cup qualifiers and other matches.

China passed a new law in September mandating up to 15 days in police detention for those who mock the March Of The Volunteers national anthem, a law that also covers the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, but was not immediately given a legal basis for enforcement there.

The National Anthem Law, which went into effect on Oct 1, has been included in an annex of Hong Kong's Basic Law, or mini Constitution, state news agency Xinhua said.

It will also be included in an annex of Macau's Basic Law, Xinhua reported.

Spokesman for the National People's Congress Standing Committee He Shaoren said at a news conference yesterday that it was up to the Hong Kong government to enact a local law to abide by the amendment in a timely manner.

A Hong Kong official said on Wednesday that the Special Administrative Region would enact such a law "as soon as possible".

China passed a new law in September mandating up to 15 days in police detention for those who mock the March Of The Volunteers national anthem, a law that also covers the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, but was not immediately given a legal basis for enforcement there.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that promises the city a high degree of autonomy, including an independent judiciary.

China's growing reach into Hong Kong's affairs has, however, stoked tensions and prompted mass protests including the 2014 "Occupy" civil disobedience movement that blocked major roads in the city for 79 days to pressure China to allow full democracy.

The Chinese authorities have strived to instil greater patriotism among Hong Kongers, while condemning the push by democracy activists to distance Hong Kong from Beijing.

China's national legislature yesterday also passed an amendment to its criminal law that extends punishments for publicly desecrating the national flag and emblem to disrespecting the national anthem. Punishments include jail terms of up to three years, Xinhua reported. This law does not appear to apply to Hong Kong or Macau.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 05, 2017, with the headline 'China extends national anthem law to HK, Macau'. Print Edition | Subscribe