Hong Kong passes controversial bill to make disrespecting China's national anthem a crime

Shutterstock / Lewis Tse Pui LungThe Chinese flag and the flag of Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong passed a controversial bill on Thursday that makes insulting China’s national anthem a crime.
  • The bill states that anyone who insults or commercially misuses China’s national anthem – March of the Volunteers – faces fines of up to HK$50,000, or roughly $US6,380, or up to three years in prison.
  • The bill was passed on the 31st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which Chinese troops entered Tiananmen Square in Beijing and fired on unarmed pro-democracy protesters, killing hundreds.
  • China has grown increasingly overbearing in its policies towards Hong Kong in recent years, leading to heightened calls for the city to move towards full democracy.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Hong Kong passed a controversial bill on Thursday that makes insulting China’s national anthem a crime.

The bill, first drafted last year, passed with 41 votes in favour and one against, Reuters reported.

Many pro-democracy lawmakers boycotted the vote, per Associated Press.

Mainland China already has similar laws in place.

The Hong Kong legislation says that anyone who insults or commercially misuses China’s national anthem – March of the Volunteers – can be punished with fines of up to HK$50,000 (around $US6,400), or up to three years in prison.

Hong Kong residents have been known to boo China’s national anthem as a form of political protest when it plays at soccer games or other public events. Hong Kong is formally a separate region of China with more autonomy than the rest of the country.

Recent legislation from mainland China has sought to erode this status, prompting widespread dissent.

Thursday also marked the 31st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which Chinese troops entered Tiananmen Square in Beijing and fired on unarmed pro-democracy protesters. Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed, though China has never released an official death count.

The Chinese government frequently censors discussion of the issue on social media.

On Monday, Hong Kong police announced that a planned candlelit vigil in the city’s Victoria Park would not take place this year due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. A vigil has taken place in Hong Kong every year since 1990, drawing crowds in the thousands.

Hong Kong pro-democracy politician Lee Cheuk-yan accused the government of using the coronavirus pandemic as grounds to cancel the vigil. “They are just using this excuse to suppress our rally,” he said at a press conference.

Last month, China moved forward with controversial national security laws for Hong Kong, allowing China to draft and force national security laws in Hong Kong in the near future. Chinese authorities have not yet released the full details of the proposal.

China has grown increasingly overbearing in its policies towards Hong Kong in recent years, leading to heightened calls for the city to move towards full democracy. China’s vote on the national security laws reignited protests in Hong Kong last week.

Pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong tweeted last month that China’s aggressive measures were “retaliation” for months of violent clashes between protesters and police spurred by the deeply unpopular extradition bill proposal last year.

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