Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo on Monday asked the government to rescind its proposed amendments to the national anthem bill at a meeting with the official in charge.
Mo revealed last week that the government is “very likely” to propose a national anthem bill in January, which will include a requirement that the anthem be played before lawmakers are sworn into office.
Citing her meeting with the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip on Monday morning, Mo said that Nip did not specify which kinds of behaviour would be considered acceptable.
The Legislative Council would arrange how the national anthem would be played on its premises, Mo quoted Nip as saying.
“I have a strong feeling that [the government], in all aspects of the bill, tried to add political threats and censorship techniques,” Mo told reporters.
She added that she put different scenarios to Nip to ask if they would fall foul of the law, such as lawmakers arriving late or sneezing when the anthem was playing. Nip did not give a firm answer during the meeting, Mo said.
“[The requirement] is unwarranted and complicates the debate,” she said.
In March, the government sent a proposed outline of the national anthem bill to the legislature, which suggested a maximum penalty of HK$50,000 and three years in jail.
The law would penalise anyone who “publicly and wilfully alters” the lyrics or the score of the national anthem, performs or sings the national anthem in a “distorted or derogatory manner,” or insults the national anthem in any other manner.
Mainland law includes oath-taking
Nip said on Monday that the bill’s drafting was near completion and that it would be introduced to the legislature “as soon as possible” next year.
He added that the local legislation takes its cue from mainland China’s version of the national anthem law, but will be adapted to fit Hong Kong’s circumstances.
Asked about Mo’s comments, Nip said he would not comment on specific provisions in the draft. However, he noted that oath-taking is regulated under mainland law.
“I have noticed that in the mainland version, oath-taking is mentioned and it is a situation where the national anthem is played,” he said.
“So in terms of local legislation, we will conduct our work according to the principles I’ve stated.”
The local draft bill lists a number of situations where the national anthem should or should not be played, Nip said. That list could be amended by the chief executive.
Pro-democracy camp split
Council Front, a coalition of six pro-democracy lawmakers including Mo, came out on Monday to oppose the new requirement of the national anthem bill, calling it unnecessary.
Lawmaker Eddie Chu added that the chief executive should not have the power to order the legislature to play the anthem, and that the law would not elicit true respect from Hongkongers.
However, Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai said on Friday that the proposed requirements were “reasonable” and would help clarify when the national anthem would be played.
“Why is there any need to oppose it?” Wu said, referring to the requirement that the anthem must be played before lawmakers are sworn in. “The law should be applied clearly and restricted to specific occasions.”