Hong Kong passes law to criminalise insult of Chinese national anthem

The law is expected to come into force on 12 June

Photo: AP Pro-democracy MPs staged a protest ahead of the vote on the contentious national anthem bill

Hong Kong’s legislature has passed today the controversial bill criminalising insult of the Chinese national anthem by a comfortable majority, despite months of wrangling over fears of curbs to free expression. Offenders who are now found guilty of deliberately altering March of the Volunteers risk fines up to HK$50,000 or three years in prison.

The vote saw 41 lawmakers – constituting the council’s pro-Beijing majority – back the resolution, whilst one objected and no one abstained.  Democrats launched a last-minute protest in a bid to stall proceedings, with most refusing to take part in the ballot.

Rival camps have repeatedly clashed over the bill – inserted into Annex III of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution by Beijing in 2017 – with several meetings descending into physical confrontations as opposition lawmakers sought to delay its passage. In preparation of potential hold-ups, Legislative Council (LegCo) President Andrew Leung allotted four days or 30 hours for debate.

Speaking to the press afterwards, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang thanked the LegCo president for “facilitating the voting process.”

Asked whether he thought the vote was illegitimate due to legislators being denied a chance to finish discussing the bill, he said the public should not be worried because there have been 17 meetings on the issue. He added the law is expected to come into force on 12 June.

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