China extends national anthem disrespect law to Hong Kong

Saturday, 04 Nov, 2017

China's top legislature has endorsed an amendment to the criminal code to make abuse of the national anthem or flag punishable by up to three years in prison.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress added an amendment to the country's criminal law to include punishment for anyone found "seriously" disrespecting the national anthem in public.

Those who sing the national anthem in a disrespectful way or doctor the lyrics or the music could be subjected to up to three years' imprisonment and deprived of their political rights.

In the past few years, some Hong Kong football fans have booed the national anthem during World Cup qualifiers and other matches.

That law, the National Anthem Law, also forbids playing the anthem on "improper" occasions, including at funerals.

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, has a separate legal system so it is too early to say whether the punishment for mocking the anthem will be as severe as the current Chinese law, the BBC's Juliana Liu in Hong Kong says. China's legislation has caused some tension among citizens in Hong Kong.

"I advise Hong Kong people not to test the law themselves, because if it's in Annex III, theoretically speaking - as I've said - these acts will already be considered illegal", Tong said. The move reflects President Xi Jinping's image as a patriotic leader.

The move comes as the anthem, "March of the Volunteers", has in recent months become a focus for political protest in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong, where many object to Beijing's increasing efforts to impose its authority on the territory. Hallmarks of his term in office have included a stronger military, bolder foreign policy and aggressive economic expansion overseas, as well as sharply reduced space for criticism or political dissent at home.