A recently implemented law banning any form of “insult” to the Chinese national anthem in China may also be enforced in Hong Kong soon, the local government revealed on Monday.
Once adapted locally, the measure would effectively make “booing” during the playing of the shared anthem “March of the Volunteers” illegal in Hong Kong. The practice, most recent of which was during Asian Cup qualifying match against Malaysia this month, has become a tradition of some fans in Hong Kong during international soccer matches since the Occupy protests in 2014.
The continued “booing” during the matches has earned the ire of both the China’s Communist Party and soccer’s world governing body FIFA.
China’s government responded by passing the national anthem law this year, while FIFA fined HKFA twice in 2015, accusing the local organization of failing to control its crowd behavior.
Based on the new law Beijing passed in September, anyone who disrespects or mocks the national anthem will be detained for at least 15 days, with the possibility of further criminal charges.
The national anthem law stated that “attendees at events where the anthem is played are required to stand straight and remain solemn for the song under the law”.
While Hong Kong currently maintains political autonomy provided under the terms of the 1997 handover from British rule, its government has indicated that a similar law is already in the works.
Hong Kong’s top official for constitutional and mainland affairs, Patrick Nip Tak-Kuen, explained that the local version of the law would be in accordance with Hong Kong’s own legal and constitutional traditions, according to the South China Morning Post. Nip, however, stressed that: “In general, Hong Kong’s laws are not applied retroactively.”
However, observers argued that Beijing could pressure Hong Kong to include a clause in the local version of the legislation that would allow punishment for infractions that predate the law.
Beijing’s Peking University law professor and Basic Law Committee member Rao Geping even suggested that the Hong Kong government can begin by recording the booing spectators and reviewing options on how they can go about implementing the law once it is in place.
For a Chinese law to take effect in Hong Kong, it must be included into Annexe III of the Basic Law, as prescribed under the “one country, two systems” by which China governs Hong Kong.
According to Nip, this may indeed be processed soon when the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee convenes from October 30 to November 4.
He further explained that the local government of Hong Kong has already been reviewing the mainland law and looking into how it could be adapted to fit into the local legal system.
“Everything will have to wait until the law is officially inserted into Annexe III. Once it is inserted into Annexe III, we will begin local legislation procedures. In fact, we have taken preliminary steps already,” Nip was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-Tai has questioned why legislators were not consulted before any work was done regarding the law.
“Even if it is a national law, we still have the Basic Law and the right to discuss these things,” Cheng said.
Nip has earlier noted that enacting the law is a top priority and its legislation must be completed as soon as possible.
“The national anthem is an icon and symbol of the country and, as it is a national law, Hong Kong has the responsibility to legislate it,” he added. “The Legislative Council will have plenty of opportunities to vet the [draft bill] and there will be a lot of time to gather opinions.”