Hong Kong Criminalizes Mocking Chinese Anthem on Tiananmen Anniversary

  • The bill was approved by 41 votes in favor and one vote against.
  • The pro-democratic opposition decided to boycott the vote in the LegCo.
  • Hong Kong anti-riot police arrested at least 120 people, mainly for illegal assembly, protesting against the national security law.

The Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region approved a controversial bill that criminalizes offenses against the anthem of the People’s Republic of China Thursday, a bill that the region’s opposition, and democrats at large, regard as undermining the territory’s autonomy. 

The National Anthem Bill is a proposed law of Hong Kong intended to criminalize “insults to the national anthem of China” (“March of the Volunteers”). Under the ban, it is illegal to alter the lyrics of the anthem, or to sing it “in a distorted or disrespectful way,” punishable by up to three years in prison and hefty fines.

The voting by the members of the LegCo comes at the time of the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when China sent tanks and troops to crush students’ protests in Beijing. The bill was approved by 41 votes in favor and one vote against.

The opposition decided to boycott the vote on the bill, marked by the strong tensions that have been going on for over a year in the former British colony. The date that the citizens of Hong Kong mark the 4th of June 1989, the date of the violent repression of the regime of Beijing against the pro-democracy movement, also played a huge factor.

The Beijing regime has been confronted for several years with boos and insults to the national anthem (“March of the Volunteers”), especially in football stadiums when the Hong Kong team plays. The new law, which is expected to be formally ratified by the region’s local chief executive, Carrie Lam, provides for up to three years in jail, as well as a potential fine of up to 50,000 Hong Kong dollars (approximately $6,450) for offenses against the anthem of the People’s Republic of China.

Pro-democratic political groups in the Hong Kong SAR see legislative action as a “new weapon” of confrontation against dissidents, foreseeing moments of tension between members of the Legislative Council.

The Tiananmen Square movement was crushed on the night of June 3-4, 1989, when army tanks were sent to end seven weeks of protests. The exact number of people killed remains a state secret, but the “Mothers of Tiananmen,” a non-governmental association made up of women who lost their children at that time, have since identified more than 200.

The Tiananmen Square protests or the Tiananmen Square Incident, commonly known as the June Fourth Incident in mainland China, were student-led demonstrations held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing during 1989. Troops advanced into central parts of Beijing on the city’s major thoroughfares in the early morning hours of June 4, killing both demonstrators and bystanders in the process.

“National Security Law”

Just recently, on May 24th to be precise, Hong Kong anti-riot police arrested at least 120 people, mainly for illegal assembly, while four members of the police liaison team were injured after protesters took to the streets against the national security law that was being discussed at Beijing’s National People’s Congress.

The law was eventually imposed on the region by China. Prior to its imposition, however, thousands of people demonstrated on the Hong Kong streets in great opposition to the move. The region’s police force had a difficult time trying to disperse them, and they employed the use of pepper spray as well as water cannons on the demonstrators. 

The clashes evoked the anti-government protests that last year brought up to two million people to the streets. “We must stand up and fight, and let Beijing know that we will never surrender,” Joshua Wong, one of the city’s most prominent activists, said at the time. Wong added that the national security law is even more harmful than the extradition bill that had generated the six months of protests in Hong Kong.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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