Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung has said that Hong Kong could enact a law imposing strict restrictions on how the Chinese national anthem should be sung.

Her comments came as the National People’s Congress – China’s top legislative body – began deliberating the passing of a new National Anthem Law on Thursday. It criminalises singing malicious parodies or derogatory forms of the March of the Volunteers, which would lead to a maximum of 15 days of police detention.

The proposed law also stipulates that people attending a performance of the anthem must stand solemnly. If the Chinese flag is being raised at the same time, attendees must face the flag.

The proposal outlaws the performance of the anthem in weddings, funerals, advertisements and as background music in public venues.

Students in the first year of primary school would learn the anthem as part of music class, while primary and secondary schools would be made to form groups of students to sing it.

Introduction in Hong Kong?

Speaking on an RTHK show on Friday, legislator Priscilla Leung believed that the mainland’s National Anthem Law could be introduced in Hong Kong as part of Annex III of the Basic Law.

She cited local football fans’ jeers towards the anthem before international matches as a reason for introducing the law.

Six national laws are currently applied in Hong Kong under Annex III, including the Resolution on the Capital, Calendar, National Anthem and National Flag of the People’s Republic of China. Passed in 1949, the resolution simply states that the March of the Volunteers is the national anthem of the country.

Chinese national anthem March of the Volunteers
The Chinese national anthem is played every evening on all Hong Kong television channels. Photo: Screenshot.

Mainland legal scholar Tian Feilong made a similar suggestion, reported Ming Pao on Friday.

However, Hong Kong does not have the “detention” provision used by the mainland’s criminal law system, while the legal process of adding new national laws to Annex III remains unclear.

Leung believed that it would be better if Hong Kong legislated local regulations on the anthem, as courts would be able to hear the arguments of defendants and deliberate on them using the logic of common law.

Singing off-tune

While China’s proposed National Anthem Law criminalises the malicious editing of the anthem, it does not clearly state a penalty for the failure to perform tasks, such as standing solemnly while the anthem is played.

“I think [the law] is telling you to try your best,” said Leung. “Sometimes people sing off-tune, but there’s no problem with that, because it’s not malicious.”

YouTube video

“But normal people would see a risk,” said the radio host. “Let’s say if the national anthem is played, but you receive a telephone call – Hong Kong people would be scared.”

See also: Solemn, respectful and cherished: China to tighten rules on how its anthem is sung

“Well if you’re in mainland China, and if you pick up a call while singing the national anthem, a lot of people would look at you and not accept it,” replied Leung.

“If you have something urgent and you can explain it, then you might not be punished, because there’s no motive to humiliate the anthem.”

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.