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    Diss the national anthem? That’s up to three years in the slammer
    Diss the national anthem? That’s up to three years in the slammer
    POLITICS

    Diss the national anthem? That’s up to three years in the slammer

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    by
    Viola Zhou
    Viola Zhou
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    If you protest during “The Star-Spangled Banner” in America, you get angry comments on social media or an angry tweet from the president.

    But if you do the same with China's “March of the Volunteers,” you may be jailed for up to three years.

    This penalty, implemented in mainland China last year, may now be coming to Hong Kong, a former British colony with a separate legal system.

    On Friday, the Hong Kong government formally presented this proposal to lawmakers, who are expected to pass it without difficulty.

    Tension between Hongkongers wanting greater democracy and the Chinese government has steadily risen in recent years.

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    Protests against the Chinese national anthem in Hong Kong made international headlines in 2015, at a World Cup qualifier.

    Hong Kong fans turn their backs during the Chinese national anthem before the 2017 Asian Cup preliminary match between Hong Kong and Malaysia in Hong Kong.
    Hong Kong fans turn their backs during the Chinese national anthem before the 2017 Asian Cup preliminary match between Hong Kong and Malaysia in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

    Since then, boo-ing and chanting by some Hongkongers, usually as the anthem played at sports events, has continued.

    According to the proposal: “Anyone who intentionally alters the lyrics or music of the national anthem in public or sings the national anthem in a distorted or derogatory fashion, or insults the national anthem in other ways, will be committing a crime.”

    The suggested punishment is up to three years in prison, plus a $6,400 fine.

    The proposed legislation has prompted strong opposition by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists, who fear it will be used to suppress protests and dissent.

    Frustration against the Chinese government boiled over in 2014, when tens of thousands of people occupied the heart of Hong Kong.

    Democracy activist Joshua Wong said the new law could be used to punish anti-China protestors.

    "It is a form of imposed patriotism which suppresses the public’s freedom of expression and right to protest," Wong said. 

    The city's chief secretary Matthew Cheung told a press briefing last week that it was important for Hongkongers to show respect to the national anthem. 

    A Hong Kong woman holds a placard at a large pro-democracy protest in 2014.
    A Hong Kong woman holds a placard at a large pro-democracy protest in 2014. Photo: AFP

    Still, this city, a former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, is hugely divided politically. Many people do support greater integration with mainland China.

    As part of the proposal, the government also wants to teach primary and secondary students to sing the national anthem in class.

    It also wants to ban the song from television commercials, funerals or being used as background music.

    VIOLA ZHOU
    VIOLA ZHOU
    Viola is a multimedia producer at Inkstone. Previously, she wrote about Chinese politics for the South China Morning Post.

    VIOLA ZHOU
    VIOLA ZHOU
    Viola is a multimedia producer at Inkstone. Previously, she wrote about Chinese politics for the South China Morning Post.

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