The government will officially initiate legislative proceedings for the proposed national anthem law and submit papers to the Legislative Council by next week at the earliest, according to local media reports. The law may include provisions requiring the anthem to be incorporated into primary and secondary education, but there will be no public consultation on the law.
China’s legislative body incorporated the law into Annex III of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, last November. Hong Kong football fans have been repeatedly booing the Chinese national anthem at matches.
Sources cited by Ming Pao and RTHK said the government will put forward introductory papers to the Legislative Council next week, but only the general direction will be discussed, such as what it means to disrespect the song. The matter will be further deliberated at a LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs meeting later this month.
The first reading of the bill is expected to take place before the legislative session’s summer break in July.
The local legislation will target instances of deliberately disrespecting the national anthem in public, and will list occasions where the national anthem must be played, such as on China’s National Day and the handover anniversary.
In terms of penalties, the law will reference the existing National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance, which carries a maximum penalty of HK$50,000 and three years’ imprisonment for those who publicly and wilfully desecrate the national flag.
The local law may also include provisions on incorporating the national anthem into primary and secondary education, but the provisions will be for reference only, according to reports. The provisions will reference national anthem laws on the mainland, which state that students should view the anthem as an important part of patriotic education and understand its history and spirit.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen told reporters on Thursday afternoon that schools were already teaching the national anthem law, and that it was appropriate under the One Country, Two Systems framework. However, he said the question of whether it was necessary to require it by law should be further studied.
Ip said that traditionally, school curriculum is not dictated by the law, but directed by Education Bureau guidelines. “Currently, we’re leaning towards not [specifying] this under the law, in accordance with the way it’s always been done in Hong Kong,” Ip said.
Ip added that he believed there should be extensive consultation for the legislative process with the public and the education sector. However, sources cited by Now TV said there will be no public consultation for the law.
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