Legal experts have said that the requirement to stand when the national anthem is played is unrealistic and impractical, after China’s top legislature passed a decision to insert the new national anthem law into the Annex III of the Basic Law.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress made the decision on Saturday, and the Hong Kong government has said it will devise local legislation procedures following the NPC’s ruling. Last week, Chairman of the Basic Law Committee Li Fei was quoted as saying that Hongkongers will have to stand up when the national anthem plays at racecourses.

chinese china flag
Photo: Flickr.

Craig Choy, of the Progressive Lawyers Group, told Apple Daily that it was impractical to expect all the waiters and customers at a local eatery to stand up when the national anthem is heard on TV, and suggested that local stations should stop playing it in order to avoid controversy.

“It’s like red light green light – you’d have to stop even if you cross the road, it’s unrealistic,” said Choi, referencing a childhood game similar to “musical statues.”

University of Hong Kong principal law lecturer Eric Cheung said on an RTHK programme that it will be unrealistic to include a provision on requiring one to stand. However, he said he believed the government would not do so.

“Years ago, when the local laws for national flag and emblem were legislated, there wasn’t a huge problem,” Cheung said. “Of course, it can also be a litmus test – a litmus test for whether One Country, Two Systems has changed. If, 20 years later, the rules of the game are different, and – even though you’re in Hong Kong – you’d have to follow the ideology and expressions of socialism in mainland China – that would be quite scary.”

eric cheung
Photo: RTHK screenshot.

So far, however, Cheung said that no such relevant issue has been observed based in the government’s statements.

Hong Kong Football Association Vice-chairman Pui Kwan-kay said that – after the law becomes local legislation – venue managers can record footage of violators who boo the national anthem and report the matter to the police.

Rimsky Yuen
Rimsky Yuen. Photo: In-Media.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said on Monday morning that it would be impossible to foresee all the situations in the legislation of any law. He said it was most important for the principle behind the law to be clear, and the intention of the law is the defend the solemnity of the national anthem, which is “a very basic requirement” in other countries.

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.