Booing Chinese national anthem a ‘serious issue’ about respect and identity, Hong Kong leader says
Carrie Lam says focus should not be on consequences for future football matches but about deeper concerns about ‘recognising you are Chinese’
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has hit out at local fans who boo the Chinese national anthem at football matches, saying the issue was “a very serious” one.
The chief executive said national respect and identity were at stake, and it was not simply a question of whether the next game would be played away from fans behind closed doors, as has been suggested by Hong Kong’s No 2 official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung.
Lam largely steered clear of contentious political issues in her maiden policy address on Wednesday, but in a 75-minute press conference afterwards she was asked to comment on jeers heard for March of the Volunteers before the Hong Kong football team defeated Malaysia on Tuesday.
Lam said showing disrespect for the national anthem was a very serious issue, despite it being only a small minority of fans that were doing so.
Watch: Hong Kong football fans boo their national anthem
“Some people said: ‘Don’t boo, otherwise the next game is going to be played behind closed doors,’” she said. “But I think that shows the wrong focus. I must make it clear that this is an issue of respect for the nation and whether you recognise that you are Chinese.”
Lam did not use the phrase “Hong Kong independence” throughout her 88-page policy blueprint, a marked contrast to her predecessor Leung Chun-ying who referred to it a number of times.
The former chief executive made full use of the same platform to lash out at young separatists, even singling out University of Hong Kong students who had produced a feature entitled Hong Kong Nationalism in their school magazine.
Hong Kong fans ignore warnings and again boo the national anthem – this time before an Asian Cup qualifier
Lam also trod an equally careful line on national security legislation and the restart of political reform, merely saying a favourable social environment was needed to press ahead on the two thorny issues.
She pledged to create such an atmosphere but emphasised Hong Kong had not reached that stage.
“How did they treat me as I walked into the chamber today?” she said, referring to the chanting of slogans by pro-democracy lawmakers in the legislature.
Some of the lawmakers held signs that read “No authoritarianism” in front of their seats, facing Lam.
“If I can enter the Legislative Council peacefully one day and receive the most basic respect from the entire set of lawmakers, maybe that’s the time to reactivate these controversial issues.”
Asked if she chose to deliver a more “non-political” address in an effort to do away with Leung’s combative style, Lam said: “The policy address is to reflect what we have heard from the community in the last three months.”
But Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, the largest opposition party in Legco, was unhappy with the scant reference to political reform.
“The political part of the policy address was below standard,” he said.
“From what we saw with the recent jailing of young activists and the legal bids to disqualify lawmakers, it is clear that social divisions have not been eased even though Lam has placed her focus on livelihood issues.”
Wu was referring to prison sentences handed down in August to Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang, three key leaders of 2014’s Occupy pro-democracy protests, for their part in an illegal protest in the run-up to the sit-ins that shut down parts of the city.
He was also commenting on the disqualification of elected lawmakers from Legco by virtue of a court ruling on the validity of their oaths of office after the government took the issue to court.
But Lam said: “Social division cannot be healed by me writing a hundred words about it, but by actual action and work, and that action can be seen in every chapter and section of my address.”
She also said at a televised forum on Wednesday evening that to mend ties between the executive and legislative branches of government, she had accepted suggestions to move the policy address from January to October.
Meanwhile, Lam attempted to reach out to the city’s youth, including by announcing an effort to recruit 20 to 30 young people on a non-civil service basis to the government’s Policy Innovation and Coordination Unit – previously the Central Policy Unit – a think tank. Lam pledged not to consider political affiliation in the appointments.
The government has also pledged to recruit more people aged between 18 and 35 to advisory boards and committees and increase the overall ratio of young members to 15 per cent on these bodies.
A Youth Development Commission, which would enable holistic examination of young people’s concerns, would also be set up next year, Lam said.
Additional reporting by Emily Tsang and Xinqi Su