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Hong Kong Basic Law

Hongkongers must stop walking and stand still for China’s national anthem, Beijing delegate says

Comment goes beyond that of Basic Law Committee head who days earlier urged respect for the tune when it is played at sporting events

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 November, 2017, 5:12pm

Hongkongers will have to stop walking and stand still when the national anthem plays in public, a local deputy to China’s top legislative body said on Saturday, just hours before the mainland law was set to be introduced into the city’s mini-constitution.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee was poised to vote on whether to introduce the national anthem law into Hong Kong’s Basic Law at 3pm on Saturday.

If the resolution passes as expected, the city’s officials will need to introduce a local version of the law and get it through the Legislative Council.

“When the law takes effect, [people] have to stand up and show respect when the national anthem is played. That’s for sure,” Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong deputy to the national body and an executive councillor, said on Saturday.

When the law takes effect, [people] have to stand up and show respect
Ip Kwok-him, executive councillor

“Someone asked whether people who are walking have to stop. Yes, just stop,” he said during an appearance on a local radio programme. Ip drew from his personal experience in Thailand, saying that pedestrians could be expected to stand still when the national anthem plays there.

Ip noted that while people could choose not to sing, they could not show disrespect or alter the anthem’s lyrics. The law would only regulate conduct in public, he added.

Basic Law Committee head Li Fei was quoted on Thursday as saying spectators who remain seated when the national anthem plays at Hong Kong racecourses would be regarded as showing disrespect.

Watch: How well do Hongkongers know their national anthem?

As for what responsibility event organisers were to bear, the Jockey Club, in Li’s example, should do a systematic review of when it would play the anthem, Ip said.

The standing committee approved the national anthem law in September. It came into effect on the mainland at the beginning of October.

New national anthem law will draw on Hong Kong’s laws protecting the Chinese flag, minister says

Under the new law, anyone who maliciously modifies the lyrics, or plays or sings March of the Volunteers in “a distorted or disrespectful way in public” can be detained for up to 15 days and face criminal charges. The standing committee is already considering introducing a change in the country’s criminal code to increase the penalty to three years behind bars.

Ip said Hong Kong officials should table a bill at Legco as soon as possible. Yet he acknowledged that amid mounting tension between the pan-democrats and the government, it was hard to predict when the law could be passed if the opposition employed filibustering tactics.

The new moves to protect the anthem could be of particular consequence for fans of Hong Kong’s soccer team, many of whom have booed the song before matches in recent years.