Hongkongers will have to stand up when the national anthem plays at the Happy Valley and Sha Tin racecourses, Chairman of the Basic Law Committee Li Fei has said. Li was giving an example of “core elements” that would have to be incorporated into local legislation of the proposed national anthem law.

China’s legislative body approved a new law in early September that will criminalise insulting the national anthem, March of the Volunteers. It took effect on National Day on October 1. On Tuesday, the Committee considered a bill mandating prison sentences of up to three years for those disrespecting the anthem. A version is set to be rolled out in Hong Kong.

Li Fei
Li Fei. File Photo: GovHK.

Li’s comments were relayed by China Australia Legal Exchange Foundation head Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok, who led a delegation from the pro-Beijing group to meet Li in Beijing. According to Ma, Li did not discuss whether the punishment in Hong Kong would have to refer to that of mainland China’s, nor the question of whether the law would be retroactive. Li reportedly said: “Hong Kong can legislate the law on its own.”

However, Ma also quoted Li as saying that the core elements of the law must not be missing in legislation. For instance, the national anthem must be sung solemnly. It must not be used for commercial purposes or “secondary creation,” and there must be sanctions against those who insult the anthem in public. The melody of the anthem must also be correct, RTHK reported.

Furthermore, it would be compulsory to play the national anthem in primary and secondary schools. Ma said that the students do not need to memorise the song, but should understand the background of the lyrics, referring to China’s resistance against Japan.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip earlier said the government will commence the preparation of local legislation, after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress adopts the decision to add the law to Annex III of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s de facto constitution.

Joint checkpoint arrangement

Li also reportedly said that the public should not be worried that the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the high speed rail link would lead to cross-border law enforcement, as mainland officers would only inspect the goods and exercise powers of quarantine.

lawrence ma
Lawrence Ma. File Photo: Stand News.

According to Ma, Li said that if the public is still worried, they can choose to cross the border at the Huanggang port between China and Hong Kong, where there will not be any joint checkpoint arrangement.

The arrangement will involve “leasing” land to China and effectively giving up Hong Kong jurisdiction across a quarter of the West Kowloon terminus for faster immigration procedures performed by mainland law enforcement agents.

The controversial joint checkpoint mechanism is currently being debated in the Legislative Council, with the non-binding motion expected to pass this week. However, pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu has used a rare tactic to stall the meeting by asking the media and public to withdraw.

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.