Chief executive Carrie Lam has dismissed concerns about the enactment of China’s national anthem legislation in Hong Kong, saying that society should not be overly sensitive..

The new law in China seeks to punish those who maliciously change the lyrics of March of the Volunteers, perform it in a distorted manner, or insult the anthem in other ways. Violators could be detained up to 15 days by police, or face criminal prosecution.

Mainland media reported on Monday that the Chinese legislature’s executive body would officially propose including the law in Hong Kong and Macau’s mini-constitutions at their meeting in October.

carrie lam
Photo: Screenshot/RTHK.

At a regular press conference on Tuesday, the chief executive said that “society should not be overly sensitive about this natural, reasonable law – one that is not within Hong Kong’s jurisdiction – to make sure the anthem is respected.”

Lam said that the city already has laws regarding the use of the national flag and the national emblem, and that there have been no worrying instances in their enforcement.

She said she expects that the law will be implemented in Hong Kong through legislation in Annex III of the Basic Law in accordance with Article 18 of the Basic Law, similarly to the national emblem and national flag law. She said the government will look at how to implement it once the law is passed by the NPC Standing Committee.

“I think protecting the dignity of the national anthem is the obligation and responsibility of the Hong Kong Special Administrative government and indeed of any Chinese national, but the exact scope and content of the local legislation will have to be considered in light of the legislation going to be enacted by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.”

YouTube video

“This particular matter of national anthem legislation does not carry any particular scope for politicisation – let’s just deal with it as a piece of national, nationwide legislation and implement it in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law.”

Local concerns

News that the Standing Committee would seek to implement the legislation in Hong Kong was met with concerns that it will limit Hongkongers’ freedom of expression.

Legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok said on an RTHK programme on Tuesday that the law must be scrutinised by the Legislative Council to ensure that it is suitable to be enacted in the city.

“Much of the national anthem law’s content would be difficult to implement in Hong Kong,” Kwok said. “For example, it allows up to 15 days of administrative detention, but we have no such thing.”

He also said that the wording of the legislation – such as what constitutes a “solemn manner” must be clarified by LegCo “in order to ensure that Hongkongers’ freedoms and basic rights are not taken away.”

holden chow dennis kwok
Photo: Screenshot/RTHK.

Lawmaker Holden Chow also said on the same program that the legislation’s purpose was to foster respect for the country, and that citizens need not be concerned that its purpose was to take away their rights.

“This legislation is not meant to over-correct, and everyone should be clear on the fact that there is not a need to enforce the law on every occasion.”

“When the time comes to legislate the law locally, we will do so through LegCo, according to the local legal system and the local situation, and definitely not seek to directly insert the mainland legislation in Hong Kong.”

Meanwhile, political commentator Lau Yiu-siu told RTHK on Monday that the authorities are trying to use national laws to increase their control of the ideas of young people.

“Hong Kong people – especially young people – their ideology is already moving farther and farther away from the authorities. They have no way to increase cohesion through ideological education or through the country’s actual actions… they can only limit everyone’s brains and freedom of thought through criminalisation.”

“But this will only strengthen the sense of resistance, and achieve the opposite of what they want,” he said.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.