Top constitutional affairs official Patrick Nip has said the government aims to submit a draft bill for the national anthem law to the Legislative Council before the summer break.

The Hong Kong government previously said that it had begun the local legislative process for the upcoming law. The highest penalty for disrespecting March of the Volunteers in the mainland is three years in prison. But Nip has said there was “no need to worry” about accidentally violating the new rules.

Patrick Nip
Patrick Nip. Photo: In-Media.

Nip, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, said in an interview with the pro-government Sing Tao Daily newspaper that the law will be one of the main tasks of his Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau this year, along with elections, and the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area.

Nip said the national anthem law will be discussed at the Panel on Constitutional Affairs of the legislature next month, when the government will explain its suggestions and ideas.

Hong Kong fans boo national anthem
Hong Kong football fans booing the national anthem and turning their backs. File

The local government has been unclear over whether the local version of the law will have retroactive power. A former justice secretary and top adviser to Beijing, Elsie Leung, has said that the legislature can set a retroactive period for the national anthem law should there be a “large scale breach.”

Last November, Chairman of the Basic Law Committee Li Fei said that Hongkongers will have to stand up when the anthem plays at the Happy Valley and Sha Tin racecourses. He added that it will become compulsory to play the national anthem in primary and secondary schools

Guangdong integration

Nip also said his bureau was very keen on focusing its work on the Bay Area issue, so they will put a lot of resources into the project.

He said the State Council may propose a development plan for the Bay Area after the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing in March, and Hong Kong may take advantage to become the legal and arbitration centre for the region.

Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area
Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area. Photo: HKTDC.

Asked about potential democratic reforms of the political system, he said: “We all know when the public talk about restarting political reform, there has to be a suitable atmosphere – it is obviously not [the suitable time] now.”

Nip also said the government will participate in events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China’s economic reforms.

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.