Lawmaker Priscilla Leung has said that radio stations should avoid playing songs that contain parts of the national anthem after the law to regulate the song’s use is passed.

A draft outline for the law submitted last week by the government said that anyone who publicly and wilfully alters the lyrics or the score of the national anthem, performs or sings the national anthem in a distorted or derogatory manner, or insults the national anthem in any other manner will be subject to a maximum penalty of HK$50,000 and three years in jail.

The outline of the law also states that the anthem should not be used as background music in public venues, or on other occasions prescribed by the chief executive.

Leung was asked by the host on an RTHK programme on Monday if radio stations should stop broadcasting two Cantonese pop songs containing lyrics or melodies apparently borrowed from the anthem, and whether people should stop playing them in public.

“My personal opinion is: better not – this is my personal opinion. You can see that the national anthem law will include what occasions [it should be played] and how it should be sung – it is clear,” she said. “You can make your own judgment by looking at the law.”

In a nod to the beginning of March of the Volunteers, Hacken Lee’s 1998 hit The Football Chronicles begins with the words “arise,” sung in Mandarin.

It was local channel TVB’s theme song for the 1998 football World Cup in France. The song is introduced using refrains from the French national anthem La Marseillaise.

Leon Lai’s 2000 song All Day Love begins with the instrumental introduction to March of the Volunteers.

Asked if the two songs will become “banned songs,” Leung said she has never heard them: “I can only give theoretical opinions.”

On the same programme, lawmaker Alvin Yeung said he did not believe the songs constituted “performing the national anthem in a distorted or derogatory manner.”

“But will they fall into the area of ‘insulting the national anthem in any other manner’? This is why I am concerned about the subjective judgment,” he said.

Mr Tsang, an RTHK listener, phoned in asking about his CD of Hacken Lee’s The Football Chronicles. He said he was concerned that he may violate the national anthem law if his neighbour hears him playing it.

“Should I ask for a refund from Hacken Lee?” he said.

But Priscilla Leung assured him that his home was not a public area and he would not be violating the law.

Alvin Yeung and Priscilla Leung.

Mr Wong, another RTHK listener, phoned in and said the outline did not mention what constituted a public occasion. He said he was concerned that he may accidentally violate the law and asked for a public consultation.

Alvin Yeung said public hearings at the Legislative Council cannot replace public consultation conducted by the government. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has rejected calls for public consultation.

Priscilla Leung said she believed that the government will listen to public opinion as there was still time before legislation.

Not-for-profit, run by journalists and completely independent – HKFP relies on readers to keep us going. Contribute to our critical HK$1m Funding Driveends today. Help safeguard our independence and secure our operations for another year. Read how carefully we spend every cent in our Annual/Transparency Report.


Kris Cheng

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.