Pro-Beijing politician Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai has said potential violators of the proposed national anthem law “have to be jailed before they are scared.” She also said the law should have a retroactive effect if there are enough reasons to do so.

Speaking on a TVB programme on Sunday, the former Legislative Council president said: “I can’t say that there won’t be a retroactive effect for sure – it depends on the situation. If there are enough reasons for it, then there should be a retroactive effect. I’m not worried that it would backfire, because they will do it anyway.”

“[They will keep doing it] until they know they’re going to be sent to court, and they still won’t be scared then. It’s only when the court’s ruling is out and there are individuals who have to be jailed that they will be scared.”

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Rita Fan. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The law, which criminalises insulting the national anthem March of the Volunteers was approved by China’s legislative body last month and took effect in the mainland on October 1. Violators in China face detention of up to 15 days by police, or criminal prosecution. A version of the law is set to be rolled out locally. 

“They think it’s fun now… and others might have other intentions. What is their goal? That there would be more people opposing the national anthem, and more people will oppose China…”

Football fans in Hong Kong have been repeatedly criticised for booing the anthem during matches.

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File photo: GovHK.

Asked whether a retroactive effect was in accordance with legal principles, Fan said she was not an expert in the field.

Fan also said that she does not believe there needs to be a public consultation over the matter, as the national anthem – like the national flag and emblem – is a symbol of the country.

Fan added that she believes the National People’s Congress Standing Committee will incorporate the law into Hong Kong’s Basic Law Annex III at the end of the month, and local legislative procedure will begin. She said it would not be surprising if the pro-democracy camp attempt to filibuster so as not to allow the law to pass easily.

Fan is a member of the Hong Kong delegation to the National People’s Congress.

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.