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Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam urges Hongkongers not to be ‘overly sensitive’ about new Chinese national anthem law

Chief executive compares impending adoption with how national flag and emblem are protected

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 1:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 11:14pm

Hong Kong’s leader has urged residents not to be “overly sensitive” about a new mainland law curbing abuse of the national anthem, which the city must soon adopt.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she saw no difficulty in enacting a local law to implement the national one, comparing it with how the city adopted legislation on the national flag and emblem in the past without trouble.

Her assurances came after two influential Beijing newspapers reported on Monday that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee would officially propose inserting a national anthem law into Annexe III of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, at its bimonthly meeting in October.

Lam on Tuesday said the government should enact a local ordinance to implement the national anthem law after it becomes part of Annexe III, which lists the national laws that should apply locally.

The chief executive said the national law could not be fully implemented under the Hong Kong legal system, and she had consulted the justice minister on the matter.

Protecting the dignity of the national anthem is the ... responsibility of the Hong Kong government
Chief Executive Carrie Lam

The draft law was given a second reading on Monday and would ban people from playing the March of the Volunteers at events such as funerals or using it as background music in public places.

Malicious revisions to the lyrics or derogatory performances could be punished under the proposed legislation by up to 15 days in detention.

The legislation would also bar use of the anthem in commercial advertisements, while people attending events would be required to stand up straight, and solemnly, when the anthem is played.

“Protecting the dignity of the national anthem is the obligation and responsibility of the Hong Kong SAR government and indeed of all Chinese nationals,” Lam said. “But the exact scope and content of the local legislation would have to be considered in light of the legislation to be enacted by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.”

She called on local residents not to be “overly sensitive” about the matter, arguing no problems had arisen in implementing legislation on the national flag and emblem. The two laws were added to Annexe III and local ordinances were passed accordingly.

“We are living in a more politicised environment,” Lam said. “We need not adopt a very politicised stance ... This particular matter of national anthem legislation does not carry any particular scope for politicisation.”

Lam added the legislation was nationwide in scope and not directed at the city.

The proposed national anthem law would require the inclusion of the song in primary and secondary school curriculums. Citizens would be encouraged to sing it on proper occasions to “express patriotism”.

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Education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said officials would pay close attention to the proposed law and consider the city’s situation.

He added that the city’s primary and secondary school curriculum already covered the national anthem, which is included in most music textbooks.

Bar Association chairman Paul Lam Ting-kwok agreed with the chief executive that the law could not be directly imported to Hong Kong, a common law jurisdiction.

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“Whether you support it or not, I think we have to find out the exact terms first,” he said on a radio programme on Tuesday.

The chairman acknowledged a possibility the law could affect how people express their views in public. He said it was an issue worth further exploration.

Paul Lam said the minimum requirement for a society observing the rule of law was having legislation that clearly defined what constitutes a breach.

One way to enhance public understanding of the law, he said, was to have a thorough consultation.