A top official has said that proposals for Hong Kong’s version of China’s national anthem law will likely be tabled at the legislature in the first quarter of next year, adding that there is “no need to worry” about accidentally violating the new rules.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip said plans will first be submitted to the Panel on Constitutional Affairs before the actual bill is formed, as per the normal procedure.
When he met reporters on Wednesday, he did not state clearly as to whether public consultations will be conducted as part of the local legislative process.
“We should focus on the most effective means of doing this local legislation work. As I said, during this legislative process, there are many opportunities for the Legislative Council, and also the public, and for us to listen to the views and consider the views,” he said. “I also noticed that, just in recent days or weeks, a lot of such views have already been expressed, and we will continue to listen carefully.”
China has already enacted laws banning citizens from disrespecting March of the Volunteers. The highest penalty for violating the law in the mainland is three years in prison.
Nip said the government will consider Hong Kong’s constitutional and legal systems, and the common law legal principles, in formulating the law.
‘No need to worry’
Lawyers have raised concerns about situations in which members of the public could unintentionally breaking the law in Hong Kong. Nip said the law’s intention was to protect the national anthem and the country’s dignity.
“It is to regulate public occasions when the national anthem is played – people should be respectful. If there are actions desecrating or disrespecting the anthem, as these actions are crossing the regulation, responsibility should be taken,” he said, adding that he believed most Hong Kong people respect the anthem and the country.
“If we do not have the intention or actions to desecrate or disrespect the anthem, then there is no need to worry about unintentionally breaking the law.”
The local lawmaking process began after China’s top legislature decided last week to insert the law into the Annex III of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s de facto constitution. The annex includes mainland laws which apply locally to govern the use of the national flag and emblem – among other rules which apply to Hong Kong.
The new law comes as Hong Kong football fans have been repeatedly booing the Chinese national anthem at matches.