Legislative Council President Andrew Leung has confirmed that lawmakers will not scrutinise the national anthem law bill again before their summer break in mid-July.
The bill can only be considered again in October when a new legislative year starts.
On Saturday, the government suspended the controversial extradition bill following mass protests. The administration has since written to the legislature’s House Committee – which handles internal affairs including the agenda – asking if lawmakers would object to resuming the debate for three bills, including the national anthem bill.
But Leung, of the pro-Beijing Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, told reporters on Wednesday that there were other issues for lawmakers to examine, including tax cuts and the extension of judges’ retirement age.
Leung said he had asked Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip if the government really wished to continue with the controversial bill: “If the secretary agrees to people’s advice – including mine – maybe he wouldn’t send it to the [legislature for its second reading] within this legislative year,” Leung said.
“The legislature needs some time to calm down… The legislature has a lot of livelihood and economic issues to handle. Maybe the political issues can be set aside for now. That’s my opinion.”
When meeting the press on Wednesday evening over a separate matter, Leung confirmed that the LegCo Secretariat received a letter from Nip stating that the bill process will not resume before the current legislative year ends on July 10.
Under the national anthem bill put forward by the government this year, anyone who publicly and wilfully alters the lyrics or the score of March of the Volunteers, performs or sings the anthem in a derogatory manner, or insults the song, risks a penalty of up to HK$50,000 and three years behind bars.
The draft national anthem law has already been tabled at the legislature, and has completed the bills committee stage. It is pending resumption of a second reading at the Legislative Council’s general meeting.
‘Public anger and protests’
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said Leung’s suggestion was reasonable.
He said that another controversial discussion on the horizon is the research funding proposal for the Lantau Tomorrow Vision reclamation plan. The government said the plan may cost HK$624 billion.
“The national anthem law, as well as the funding for Lantau Tomorrow Vision, should not be forcefully passed at the legislature at this stage. Otherwise, a new round of public anger and protests will arise,” he said.
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