Anthem dissenters deserve legal lesson in respect

Most opposition groups don’t even think there is anything wrong with such anti-Chinese behaviour because it’s alleged to be an exercise of free speech

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 12:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 12:04am

As a general rule in human decency, I think it’s self-evident that everyone should show respect to other peoples and nations. And that means respecting those things that most signify them, say, their national flags and anthems.

If you accept this premise as a kind of axiom in proper conduct, then you should have no trouble respecting your own country’s anthem.

Penalties for poor Mandarin and not standing for anthem while eating wonton noodles?

It follows that you should show respect to the Chinese national anthem, whether or not you identify yourself as Chinese. You should show respect to China even if you think Hong Kong should become independent.

From all these, it follows that those who booed the nation’s anthem, for example, at international soccer matches, deserve to be publicly criticised and frowned on. Still, it is arguable whether they deserve legal sanctions, by making such behaviour an offence. Some countries, such as the Philippines, Thailand and India, have made it a jailable offence; others have not.

The mainland has just toughened its own law, making such offences punishable by up to three years in jail. Hong Kong is to follow suit, though the penalties will probably be much less severe.

What fascinates me is that most opposition groups don’t even think there is anything wrong with such anti-Chinese behaviour because it’s alleged to be an exercise of free speech. So, it’s OK to disrespect any or all national anthems. Or at least that’s what their position would logically entail.

Hongkongers will not be arrested for refusing to stand for national anthem

Some refine their position by blaming the central government. When you equate the Chinese nation with the communist state, they say, you invite attacks against the nation even though the attacker or critic may only want to take aim at the state.

While the nation-state equivalence is part of a communist dogma on the mainland, it’s not the case in Hong Kong. In the past 20 years, top mainland officials have repeatedly and explicitly affirmed that patriotism for Hong Kong people only means love of the country, not of the party or the state.

My suspicion is that those in the opposition will probably tell you to respect all other peoples, just not China or mainlanders, against whom they prefer to direct all their venom. They are essentially saying: “You want respect? Make me.”

Since there is no reasoning with them or appealing to self-restraint, they are now being made to do it. They ask for it. They deserve it.