Pro-establishment lawmaker and National People’s Congress deputy Michael Tien has said that Hong Kong will need clarity on China’s new law defining how the national anthem may be performed.

The new legislation seeks to punish those who insult the national anthem, March of the Volunteers, with violators in China facing detention of up to 15 days by police, or criminal prosecution.

Mainland media reports that the Chinese legislature’s executive body will officially propose including the law in Hong Kong and Macau’s mini-constitutions at their meeting this October.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu
Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu. File Photo: GovHK.

Secretary for Security John Lee said on Wednesday that, if the law is to be enacted in Hong Kong, there will be a debate in the Legislative Council and all the details will be discussed.

“So eventually, what will be enacted in the law will be clear in its meaning so that people of Hong Kong will understand how they should behave in regard to the provision,” Lee told reporters.

“With regards to how the law is to be enforced, it is a matter of the wording of the law and then how the law enforcement agencies collect evidence and present the evidence in court. It has to be according to the circumstances of the case itself.”

‘Respect and solemnity’ 

On a RTHK programme on Thursday, Tien also said that there has to be discussions on how rules governing behaviour should be worded.

“It comes down to respect and solemnity,” Tien said. “A lot of people have different views on this, and there is a range [of conduct] – it’s not black and white.”

“For example, you could stand still without blinking, or you could be looking around, or even turn – there’s a lot of different behaviour, and you need to discuss the line that is acceptable.”

michael tien
Michael Tien. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“What if you aren’t looking at the flag… but you aren’t causing any other trouble? Does that count?”

“For instances like these, it’s always better to make it clear than not, or to assume that everyone already understands. Because this is really a relatively new restriction,” Tien added.

Tien also speculated about other scenarios such as where one’s Mandarin pronunciation would be acceptable enough, or whether spectators at a sports match who did not sing along would be targeted. He questioned whether large numbers of law enforcement officials would be required on the scene.

The Hong Kong Football Association has been repeatedly fined after local fans booed the national anthem when it is played at matches.

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Chief Executive Carrie Lam has dismissed concerns, saying the national anthem law should not be politicised.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.