Xi Jinping’s proposal came across as farcical in a city where democratic traditions have evaporated.
The News Lens
By: Suzanne Pepper
Hong Kong is learning what it means to live with Chinese definitions of free speech and all its derivatives. Introducing the proposed new national anthem law, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Patrick Nip told critical questioners they could still exercise their right to say whatever they want. It’s just that they will have to find some other format because renditions of the national anthem will soon be off limits.
The maximum sentence possible under the new law will be a three-year prison term and a HK$50,000 (US$6,370) fine for intentionally insulting, distorting, or otherwise disrespecting the national anthem. This is to be played at all the usual times and places, with one addition. It must also be played at swearing-in ceremonies when officials, legislators, and judges are taking their oaths of office.
The police will be allowed two years, instead of the usual six months, to file charges against offenders – two years because that’s how long they’ve found it can take to ferret out miscreants from the footage now being recorded by police cameras and others at every demonstration and political event. This kind of surveillance is also part of Hong Kong’s new reality.
Credit: Reuters / Bobby YipThis could soon be against the law in Hong Kong.
The new law follows from the calamitous 2016 Legislative Council swearing-in-ceremony when some newly-elected Hong Kong legislators added a few insults along with some political slogans to the standard oath-of-allegiance. Bad behavior at soccer matches had also not gone unnoticed. A national anthem law has since been passed and is being enforced throughout the country, with Hong Kong and Macau required to add a similar law to their new post-colonial Basic Law constitutions. [FULL STORY]