Jeering China’s national anthem in Hong Kong to be punished with three years in prison

Booing the anthem is a widespread form of protest by young people during football matches. The proposal parallels a law already in place in mainland China but not applicable to the city. Many fear for Hong Kong’s autonomy. The opposition does not have the numbers to block the bill.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Hong Kong government has proposed new laws today that would punish jeering China’s national anthem with up to three years in jail, mirroring mainland China and raising fresh concerns over the city’s promised freedoms.

Booing the national anthem has become a form of political protest at football (soccer) matches in Hong Kong, as youth express frustration at perceived creeping influence of China’s Communist Party over the city’s culture and freedoms.

The draft bill has been submitted to the Autonomous Region’s Legislative Council, ma no date has been set yet for its approval. However, it is expected to pass easily because the opposition does not have enough votes to stop it adoption.

Under proposed rules, a person who “publicly and wilfully alters the lyrics or the score”, performs the “March of the Volunteers” in a “distorted or derogatory manner”, or insults the anthem in any other way could be liable to three years imprisonment and a HK$ 50,000 (US$ 6,375.11) fine.

If passed, the bill, would also make it a legal requirement for schools to teach the anthem, its history and its “spirit”.

A new law banning disrespect for the anthem came into force in mainland China last year, but it was not automatically applicable to Hong Kong. Nevertheless, the Autonomous Region has already outlawed the desecration of national flags and emblems, also punishable by three years’ jail.

A former British crown colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 under promises that its core freedoms would remain intact under a “one country, two systems” formula. Now, the UK’s half-yearly report on Hong Kong is saying that its high degree of autonomy was coming “under increasing pressure”.

For its part, the Hong Kong government said that foreign governments should not interfere in its internal affairs.