Controversial national anthem law takes effect in Hong Kong 

Controversial law, which can bring up to 3 years in prison to those who insult China’s “March of Volunteers” national anthem, took effect in Hong Kong

Chief Executive of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
Chief Executive of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
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IANS

The controversial law, which can bring up to three years in prison to those who insult China's "March of Volunteers" national anthem, took effect in Hong Kong on Friday, after it was signed by the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

"I am pleased that the National Anthem Ordinance will be gazetted and come into effect tomorrow, signifying the fulfilment of the constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR and reflecting the spirit of 'one country, two systems'," CGTN quoted Lam as saying on Thursday after the signing.

"Like the national flag and the national emblem, the national anthem is the symbol and sign of the nation. As an inalienable part of China, the HKSAR is duty-bound to preserve the dignity of the national anthem through legislation," she said.

Hoping that the public will respect the national anthem of their own volition, Lam said the promotion of the national anthem is of paramount importance to let the younger generation understand the history and spirit of the national anthem.

"The Education Bureau will update its learning and teaching resources and issue directions to schools through circulars to support schools in teaching students," Lam said.

Hong Kong's Legislative Council had passed the national anthem bill on June 4 with an overwhelming majority.

Sources quoted anonymously by public Hong Kong radio broadcasting RTHK explained that the former British colony police have been trained in how to apply it and that internal guidelines "suggest that the legislation would be used only against those who deliberately insult" the anthem, reports Efe news.

Those who do so risk not only imprisonment of up to three years, but also to fines of up to HK$50,000 ($6,451).

Opposition deputies, as well as thousands of protesters, have expressed their opposition to this new law, which they consider violates freedom of expression, as well as not considering it the proper way to get people to respect the Chinese national anthem.

For more than a year, the situation in Hong Kong has been deteriorating due to the impact of pro-democratic protests on the economy of the semi-autonomous city, where local GDP fell by 2.8 per cent and 3 per cent in the last two quarters of 2019, respectively, and 8.9 per cent in the first of 2020, to which the paralysis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been added.

The former British colony's pro-democratic movement has gained new momentum following the approval of the national anthem law as well as a national security law passed by the Chinese Legislative last month.

The security law would aim to "safeguard national security" against the much-feared "foreign interference" that Beijing sees in the massive protests that started more than a year ago, but lawyers and activists believe this law will end up curtailing the liberties the city enjoys.

The 1984 Sino-British Declaration, which articulated Hong Kong's retrocession from British to Chinese hands in 1997, established the maintenance for at least 50 years from that date of a series of unimaginable freedoms in this territory in mainland China.

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