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Anti-mainland sentiments

Some will still boo national anthem after Hong Kong passes local law against it, political heavyweight Maria Tam says

Basic Law panel member says there were multiple offenders after enactment of similar legislation protecting Chinese flag and emblem

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 11:52am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 11:09pm

There will still be Hong Kong people who boo China’s national anthem even after the city passes a law against such behaviour, a pro-Beijing political heavyweight said on Friday.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, an adviser to Beijing on the city’s mini-constitution, shrugged off the contempt openly displayed by hard core soccer fans on Thursday evening when the song was played at the start of a friendly match against Bahrain at Mong Kok Stadium.

“It’s going to keep happening for a while. Maybe even when the law is passed, there will still be people who will continue to boo the national anthem. There will be people who will defy the law,” Tam said on a radio programme on Friday morning.

Among the 2,400 spectators, a small group of fans in one of the stands jeered and swore when the March of the Volunteers played, with some turning their backs to the pitch.

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Tam, a member of the Basic Law Committee under the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, gave examples of people who were punished for violating the Hong Kong’s National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance on four separate occasions after it was applied to the city when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in July 1997.

In 1998, activists Ng Kung-siu and Lee Kin-yun “extensively defaced” flags in a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration in the name of their right to freedom of expression. The Court of Final Appeal convicted the pair, ruling that freedom of expression was still subject to restrictions.

Similar incidents happened in 2002, 2013 and 2015; the offenders were all punished.

Watch: Hong Kong soccer fans continue to boo national anthem

“The existence of a law doesn’t mean no one will violate it,” Tam said. But she added that she hoped seeing offenders pay the price for violating the law would deter others.

Tam said Thursday’s jeering by soccer fans was an “improvement” compared with their behaviour during a World Cup qualifier against Qatar in 2015, when Fifa fined the city’s Football Association 5,000 Swiss francs (HK$39,000) for failing to control the crowd’s behaviour.

The recent trend of booing the anthem began two years ago in the wake of Hong Kong’s Occupy pro-democracy protests.

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Thursday’s match, which was closely watched and had a heavy police presence, was the first in the city after the National People’s Congress Standing Committee last weekend incorporated the mainland’s newly toughened national anthem law into Annexe III of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

The Hong Kong government is now required to come up with local legislation to prevent abuse of the anthem, which is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment on the mainland.

Tam added that she believed there was no need for a citywide public consultation.

“What is controversial is not the need for such a law, but the enforcement, and I believe such issues will be raised and discussed in the Legislative Council,” Tam said.