The Hong Kong government has announced plans to outlaw the desecration of the Chinese national flag and national emblem on the internet by amending the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance (NFNEO).

The National Flag and National Emblem (Amendment) Bill 2021 proposes banning people from “publicly and intentionally desecrating the national flag or national emblem by burning, mutilating, scrawling on, defiling or trampling on it or its image.”

Hong Kong China flag National Day 2020
A flag-raising ceremony in Hong Kong in celebration of the Chinese National Day on October 1, 2020. Photo: GovHK.

The amendments would also outlaw the publication of desecrating acts, meaning that “public and intentional desecrating acts in relation to the national flag and national emblem committed in both real life and the virtual world would be an offence”

The bill also proposed extending the time allowable for a prosecution for up to two years “to allow sufficient time for the Police to complete an investigation.” The document listed “publishing an image of a defiled national flag on Facebook” as an example.

The government also proposed requiring the head of the Education Bureau to give directions to schools about “the daily display of the national flag and the weekly conduct of a national flag-raising ceremony.”

Legislation timeline

The proposed amendment bill will be gazetted on Friday and will see its first and second reading at the legislature next Wednesday.

Legislative Council Chamber. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

After China’s top legislature passed the amendments to the country’s national flag law and national emblem law in October 2020, the two legal entries were listed in Annex III of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

According to the mini constitution, the Hong Kong government can choose to apply any legislation in Annex III to the city either directly by promulgation or by legislation.

The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said in a press statement on Wednesday that the government chose to pass the legislation through the legislature, and that the approach “is consistent with the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.”

“Having regard to the common law system practised in Hong Kong, as well as the fact that the two national laws had previously been implemented in Hong Kong by local legislation, i.e. the NFNEO, the Government proposes to implement the two amended national laws in Hong Kong by amending the NFNEO instead of by promulgation,” the press statement read.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.