The Hong Kong government will “very likely” propose a national anthem bill next month which will include a requirement that the anthem be played as lawmakers are sworn into office, according to lawmaker Claudia Mo.

Mo, who convenes the pro-democracy camp, said on Friday that the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Patrick Nip, had been reaching out to lawmakers to seek support for the proposal.

Claudia Mo. Photo:

“The government wants to send a message that ‘one country’ must come first in ‘one country, two systems,’” Mo said. “This is a kind of political pressure.”

Mo added the pro-democracy camp was not opposed to the national anthem law in principle, but she objected to the newest requirement.

“What the government originally proposed we felt was passable, with some areas of debate… But now they add this controversial provision and I believe we need to rethink,” Mo said.

Mo told HKFP that Nip had already met pro-Beijing unionist lawmakers.

Patrick Nip. Photo:

Pro-democracy camp lawmakers have not met Nip yet because of scheduling problems, but Mo would likely meet him on Monday morning, she said.

Mo also said that, according to an unnamed official source, the national anthem bill will “very likely” be put to the Legislative Council in January.

A spokesperson for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau told HKFP on Friday: “The drafting of the national anthem bill is near conclusion. The [Bureau] will submit the bill to the Legislative Council at the soonest early next year.”

In March, the government sent a proposed outline of the national anthem bill to the legislature, which suggested a maximum penalty of HK$50,000 and three years in jail for 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.

Civil society groups protested the national anthem law outline. Photo: Figo Chan, via Facebook.

The outline sparked a backlash from political parties, civil society groups and scholars who argued the national anthem law would curb civil liberties.

Starry Lee, chair of the pro-Beijing DAB party, said on Friday it was reasonable to play the national anthem at the oath-taking ceremony because it was a “solemn… and important occasion.”

“I believe the public will welcome the move,” Lee added.

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.