Jail terms under consideration for abuse of anthem

China's top legislature is considering jail terms of up to three years for people who disrespect the national anthem in public.

China's top legislature is considering jail terms of up to three years for people who disrespect the national anthem in public, while the current anthem law is to be applied in Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions.

A draft amendment was submitted for deliberation at the bi-monthly session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee yesterday.

The National Anthem Law, passed at an NPC Standing Committee session in September, came into force last month.

Those who maliciously modify the lyrics, or play or sing the anthem in a distorted or disrespectful way in public, can be detained for up to 15 days, and even be held criminally liable, according to the law.

“As the criminal law stipulates penalties for offenses to national flag and national emblem, violations regarding the national anthem should also be incorporated with the passing of the new law,” Wang Chaoying, deputy head of the NPC Standing Committee’s legislative affairs commission, said in a report to the session.

According to the draft amendment, punishments for national flag and national emblem offenses in public will also apply to acts of public disrespect to the national anthem. Punishment would range from removal of political rights and public surveillance to criminal detention and prison for of up to three years.

The current National Anthem Law, which took effect on October 1, is to be included in Annex III of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Annex III of the Basic Law of the Macau SAR.

According to the Basic Law in both regions, national laws shall not be applied, except for those listed in Annex III.

The NPC Standing Committee may add or delete the laws listed in Annex III after consulting the committees of the Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macau SARs under the NPC Standing Committee and the SAR governments.

The National Anthem Law is among laws relating to defense, foreign affairs and other matters outside the limits of the autonomy of the two SARs, said Zhang Rongshun, deputy director of the legislative affairs commission.

“The NPC Standing Committee consulted the two committees and two SAR governments, all of which agreed that it is in line with the Basic Laws and appropriate to add the National Anthem Law to the Annex III,” he said. “To safeguard the authority of the national anthem, one of the national symbols, is to safeguard the authority of the state, the people and the Chinese nation.

“In recent years, incidents of disrespecting the national anthem have occurred in Hong Kong, challenging the bottom line of the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ and social morality and triggering rage among Chinese including most Hong Kong residents,” Zhang said. “It is urgent and important to apply the National Anthem Law in Hong Kong, in a bid to prevent and handle such offences.”

Hong Kong is expected to implement the law by way of local legislation if the decision is adopted.

“The local law on the national flag, emblem and anthem, adopted by the Macau SAR in 1999, has played a constructive role in properly using the national anthem, safeguarding national authority and promoting patriotism among local residents,” Zhang said.

“March of the Volunteers” was chosen as China’s national anthem in 1949.

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