Anthem bill won't be stalled

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen says he has no intention of postponing legislation on the national anthem as it is not an "evil bill." The purpose of the law was to call for respect for the Chinese national anthem, and believed the law would not...

Jasmine Ling

Friday, January 31, 2020

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen says he has no intention of postponing legislation on the national anthem as it is not an "evil bill."

The purpose of the law was to call for respect for the Chinese national anthem, and believed the law would not conflict with freedom of speech.

"The law is enacted through the SAR's legislature for constitutional responsibility," he said. "It caters to the SAR's legal system and local situation. If we are dedicated to fulfilling One Country, Two Systems, we should do better work on the national anthem law."

The second reading debate on the bill was supposed to resume in mid-October last year for its passage within this legislative year. But pan-democratic lawmakers brought the Legislative Council's House Committee to a standstill for more than four months with attempts at filibustering.

The House Committee - which is responsible for scrutinizing a bill after the second reading - has failed to elect a new chairman after 12 rounds of meetings since the new Legco year in October last year.

Other bills such as the government's proposal to extend maternity leave to 14 weeks were also halted in the now-paralyzed House Committee.

Nip said the bill has undergone thorough scrutiny across panels and the Bills Committee for a total of 65 hours and questions the intention of pan-democrats to paralyze the legislation.

"At this stage, pan-democrats are still exhausting means to bar the bill from passing. What messages are we sending to the central government with this?" Nip said.

If passed, the national anthem law would prohibit people from deliberately altering the anthem and singing it in a distorted or derogatory manner. Anyone found guilty of insulting the anthem is liable to a maximum fine of HK$50,000 or three years' imprisonment.

Nip said the bureau is reviewing voting policies for the Legco election in September.

He said citizens have lost trust in the government due to the now-shelved fugitive bill, thus the District Council election last November had attracted rumors and disinformation.

He said the bureau would draw on experience from the last District Council election to refine measures favorable to elderly voters and restrict the number of people entering counting stations.

Nip said setting up a limit was for better management, and cited incidents from the last District Council election in which too many people entered and shouted in counting stations and even used abusive language to threaten other people.

"The limit is based on practical concerns," said Nip. "The counting stations have their capacity and cannot be overloaded. I think this is a fair and orderly way, and I believe everyone would accept this arrangement if they want the election to be held peacefully and orderly."

jasmine.ling@singtaonewscorp.com