(National anthem bill) Patrick Nip emphasizes respectLocal | 23 Jan 2019 3:24 pm
Hong Kong began the process of enacting a law to prevent insults and disrespect of the national anthem,while opponents and supporters shared their rhetoric outside the Legislative Council complex.
As dozens of supporters and opponents faced off against each other, a group of Demosisto activists in a surprise protest raised a banner at the Civic Square against the law, RTHK reports.
After submitting the bill to the Legco, Constitutional affairs minister Patrick Nip said the spirit of the law is about respect and said he believes most Hongkongers can understand this and respect the anthem.
He also said he thinks the bill will have little effect on the daily lives of the people.
Some opposition lawmakers raised slogans when the bill was taken up for first reading, but Legco President Andrew Leung quickly put his foot down. He asked the legislators to keep order and warned that anyone acting otherwise will be kicked out.
The council then sent the bill to the Legco's house committee.
Earlier outside the Legco, critics demonstrated saying the demanding the bill should be shelved while their rivals rallied saying the law is needed to uphold national dignity.
Once passed, anyone who "insults" the national anthem "March of the Volunteers" can be punished with a jail term of up to three years or a fine of HK$50,000.
The chairwoman of the pro-Beijing DAB party and chairwoman the House Committee, Starry Lee Wai-king, said insulting the national anthem can no longer be tolerated.
"Hong Kong is part of China and the national anthem represents our country. Because we don't have this law [yet], some people do make use of that to try to insult the national anthem, which is hurting One Country, Two Systems," Lee said.
"I think we need this piece of legislation to give out the signal that you cannot do that, otherwise you will have to bear the consequences."
But Labour Party chairman Steven Kwok warned that the administration's proposed legislation will restrict freedom of speech.
"The maximum punishment will be three years in prison. This is not reasonable," Kwok said."Its purpose is to restrict our freedom of expression and the police can choose who they want to prosecute."
In November 2017, the National People's Congress Standing Committee voted to introduce a national anthem law into Annex III of Hong Kong's Basic Law. The move came a month after the mainland enacted its own legislation outlawing disrespect for the anthem.
The bill submitted has attracted some concerns already about the legal defenition of disrespect and two years period allowed for investigation.