The Hong Kong Bar Association has called for the removal of more than one-third of the 14 clauses in the proposed national anthem law, saying that provisions which do not entail punishment are a departure from the city’s common law tradition. The five clauses the Bar Association objected to concern when and how the anthem should be sung, according to a document filed to the Legislative Council on Tuesday. The legal body agreed that some ways of disrespecting the anthem should be made illegal, but said all prohibited acts should “easily understood by citizens and should not unduly restrict citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of expression”. The association also urged authorities to clarify how the proposed law would affect the oath-taking ceremonies of lawmakers and members of the judiciary. The anthem is not usually played at the ceremonies for lawmakers, but the bill read that it should be in the future. Anthem law not about forcing patriotism: constitutional affairs chief A question the association wanted explained was whether lawmakers and judges could be disqualified for not singing the anthem . Six pro-democracy legislators were removed from office since 2016 for failing to take their oath properly. Under the proposed law, people who publicly and intentionally insult the anthem, March of the Volunteers , could be fined up to HK$50,000 and imprisoned for as long as three years. ‘Foreword to Hong Kong’s national anthem law will promote patriotic spirit’ In the 11-page document, the association called for the government to take out clauses three to five in the current bill. Clause three maintains the anthem must be played and sung in a manner that is “in keeping with its dignity”. Clause four describes the etiquette required when the song is played, and clause five outlines when the song should be played. Yet none of the clauses detailed any punishment for non-compliance. The association also highlighted the bill’s preamble, part of which that said one of the reasons to enact the ordinance was to promote patriotism. “It is submitted that such aspirational and directional provisions are extremely rare and unusual at common law and in the legislation of Hong Kong,” the Bar Association said in its submission to Legco. The association said it would have been more appropriate for the government to promote patriotism and social etiquette “through education or other channels”. It continued that parts of the bill “deviate from the good traditions of the common law with no perceivable justifiable reasons”. The inclusion of these clauses could give rise to uncertainty and unease among Hongkongers and should not be included in the bill, the association added. Hong Kong’s new anthem law: what you can and cannot do It said the same logic should be applied to clauses nine and 10, which focus on ways to include the anthem in schools and broadcasts. “If these provisions do not carry with them legal consequences of non-compliance, they are unnecessary,” the association said. The association said there was no justification for a plan to give law enforcement a time limit of two years to file charges over anthem-related offences, saying that investigations would be straightforward. “Given the political nature of these offences, a prolonged period for prosecution may cause unnecessary anxiety and speculation on the reasons for prosecution,” it said. Law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong are generally required to file criminal charges within six months. Executive Councillor Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a former chairman of the Bar Association, said not all laws in Hong Kong entailed penalties. Tong also said the Hong Kong government was responsible for enacting the national anthem bill because it had already been inserted into Annex III of the Basic Law. The proposed national anthem law came about after China’s top legislative body inserted it into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – the Basic Law – in November 2017.