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Anti-mainland China sentiments

‘Large-scale’ breach of new anthem rules could see law applied retroactively, top Beijing adviser Elsie Leung says

Warning follows Hong Kong soccer fans’ booing of national anthem at friendly match against Bahrain on Thursday

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 November, 2017, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 11:30am

Hong Kong’s looming national anthem law may not be retroactive, but the city’s legislature has the power to make it so if there is any “large-scale” breach of the rules after the government submits a draft bill, a top Beijing adviser has said.

The remarks by Elsie Leung Oi-sie, vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, which advises Chinese state leaders on the implementation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, came after hardcore city soccer fans again booed the national anthem on Thursday at the start of a friendly against Bahrain, despite a heavy police presence.

“The criminal law normally is not retroactive,” Leung said on Sunday after a public event. “I also think [the anthem law] should not be retroactive.

“[But] if there is large-scale breach before legislation, I believe the Legislative Council has the right to make it retroactive after [the government] submits a draft bill if necessary.”

Leung said Legco, when examining the draft bill, could add a stipulation that the law would be effective from a specific time to make it retroactive, if there was a serious breach that caused “great impact on society”.

China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, decided to incorporate the mainland’s national anthem law into Hong Kong’s Basic Law on November 4. That means the city government now has to pass a local law to the same effect.

The law effective on the mainland from last month requires everyone to stand solemnly when the anthem, March of the Volunteers, is played. Anyone who maliciously modifies the lyrics, or plays or sings the song in “a distorted or disrespectful way in public”, can be detained for up to 15 days in “administrative detention” by police under the law, or imprisoned for three years under the mainland’s criminal code.

National Anthem Law won’t be enforced in Hong Kong before local legislation is passed, government confirms

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said she would pursue a bill on the law at Legco before July next year.

Also on Sunday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung hinted that there would not be any public consultation on the draft bill before the government submits it at Legco.

“I think the public has focused too much on consultation,” Cheung said. “Not every bill needs public consultation at the moment … [Legco] is already a very appropriate platform. It will definitely hold public hearings [on the bill] and all citizens have the right to express their opinion there.”

Cheung urged citizens to trust that the government would listen to their views before drafting the bill, even without a formal public consultation.

Watch: How well do Hongkongers know their own national anthem?

Last month, the government came under fire for issuing a circular to school operators, inviting them to stream a broadcast of a Basic Law seminar to teachers and pupils. The seminar will be held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday. Senior Beijing official Li Fei will give a speech.

On Sunday, Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung said the Catholic diocese in Hong Kong did not require its schools to watch the broadcast.

He said schools were free to decide whether to watch it based on their agendas.

Yeung said it should be natural for Chinese citizens, including Hongkongers, to sing the national anthem, and that it would be “against a social norm” if people opposed singing the anthem.