Cathedral bans anthem for queen's service

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2006, 12:00am

Organisers of a service to honour Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday at St John's Cathedral have been barred from singing God Save the Queen at the ceremony on Saturday.

But royal fans in Hong Kong will get to hear the British national anthem at the China Club immediately afterwards.

Paul Surtees, president of the Royal Over-seas League, said: 'We tried and tried to get it included in the service, and are very disappointed we cannot have it.

'Let's not forget that Queen Elizabeth II was queen of Hong Kong for 45 years. I think people who attend will expect to hear God Save the Queen.'

Mr Surtees said the song I Vow to Thee, My Country would be played in the cathedral instead.

Despite the efforts of the league, church officials in the city remained adamant yesterday that the anthem would not be played. The last time it was heard in the cathedral was the day before the handover.

The Reverend John Chynchen, who will officiate at the service, said there was a misapprehension that the queen remained head of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong.

'There are rules of international protocol about playing the national anthem in foreign countries. That is why the British national anthem has not been played in St John's Cathedral since 1997 - just as the Australian national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, is not played during the Anzac Day service,' he said.

'The church is only an Anglican province in the People's Republic of China. That needs to be remembered by people who probably forget that some nine years ago, this place ceased to be a British colony. Anybody who understands the way international protocol works and how countries relate to each other will understand there is no particular problem with this.'

A spokesman at the protocol division of the Foreign Office in London last night said: 'We are unaware of any internationally recognised protocol treaty on the playing of national anthems in foreign countries.'

The queen's actual birthday is tomorrow but is officially marked on June 17. The British consul will throw a party on June 22.