Hong Kong Basic Law

‘Law to stop abuse of China’s national anthem would extend to Hong Kong ... but in revised form’

Elsie Leung, a top adviser to Beijing on city’s mini-constitution, says people have nothing to fear and that local lawmakers can vet any proposed bill

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 11:23pm

Any legislation adopted on mainland China to punish abusers of the national anthem will be applied to Hong Kong but local lawmakers have the right to vet and shape it to the city’s context, according to an adviser to Beijing on the city’s mini-constitution.

Elsie Leung Oi-sie, chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said on Tuesday that if the recently proposed law was passed, it would unlikely extend to Hong Kong as it stood.

The Standing Committee began scrutinising the bill in Beijing last week. It would punish anyone making malicious revisions to the lyrics of the March of the Volunteers or staging derogatory performances to 15 days in detention.

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Under the “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees Hong Kong’s freedoms, for a national law to take effect locally it has to be inserted to annex III of the Basic Law.

“There are two ways to enact the laws in annex III. If it is a simple matter, [the law] will be promulgated, like how the law on the national flag took effect after 1 July 1997,” she said when interviewed by former Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing.

For more complicated matters, Hong Kong could make a local law rather than importing the whole bill automatically, she said.

Lau noted that there were fears among Hongkongers that such a law would hurt freedom of expression.

“Don’t be scared. If there are rules we can’t accept, I don’t believe the Legislative Council will pass them,” Leung replied, adding that the Hong Kong government and the Basic Law Committee would be consulted first.

When asked by the Post on Tuesday whether Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration would table a bill to Legco when the national law was passed and whether Hong Kong had room to make changes to the law, her office declined to comment.

Albert Chen Hung-yee, another Basic Law Committee adviser, said last week he believed Legco would be allowed to make adjustments of the national law to suit Hong Kong’s situation, such as on the penalties.

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The national legislation would ban people from playing the song at events such as funerals and in advertisements, or as background music in public places, which national lawmakers say undermines the dignity of the anthem.

Hong Kong’s sole deputy to the Standing Committee, Rita Fan Hsu Lai-ting, was quoted as proposing in Beijing last week that it should be made a requirement for pupils at kindergartens and schools to sing the anthem regularly.

Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, an expert in constitutional law at the University of Hong Kong, said on Monday it would be more reasonable to let local lawmakers revise the law because the city had a different criminal law system.

While the draft provides for 15-day administrative detention for certain abuses, such a detention is not lawful in Hong Kong.