(ANTIMEDIA) China — In an effort to “uphold the respect of the people” for the country’s national anthem and “regulate their behavior while singing or playing” it, as the China Daily writes, China’s government is considering stiffening the penalty for mocking the tune. From the state-run outlet on Tuesday:
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“People who disrespect China’s national anthem could face up to three years in prison if a draft amendment to the Criminal Law is approved.
“Besides a prison sentence, those found guilty could also be put under surveillance or deprived of their political rights, according to the draft, which was submitted on Tuesday to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the top legislature, for its first reading.”
The National Anthem Law, which was passed by the Standing Committee back in September and went into effect in early October, lays out for Chinese citizens the situations where playing the song, “The March of the Volunteers,” is appropriate.
Some of the situations stated in an October 2 article from China’s Xinhua News Agency are “constitutional oath ceremonies, flag raising ceremonies, major celebrations, awards ceremonies, commemorations, national memorial day events, important diplomatic occasions, major sport events and other suitable occasions.”
The same article says citizens found guilty of mocking the song, including those who “maliciously modify the lyrics [or] play or sing the national anthem in a distorted or disrespectful way,” could be detained for up to 15 days.
Now, however, it seems the Chinese government feels this punishment isn’t severe enough. In addition to the possible three years behind bars, “those found guilty could also be put under surveillance or deprived of their political rights.”
This is significant because, as Anti-Media has reported, there is currently a growing independence movement in Hong Kong, and the local government increasingly bristles at Beijing telling it how to handle its affairs.
In fact, Hong Kong’s defiant streak, as it relates to China’s national anthem, got the territory in a bit of trouble this week, as Reuters reported:
“The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) was warned by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Tuesday over the conduct of fans who booed the Chinese national anthem last month.
“A small section of supporters jeered during the playing of ‘The March of the Volunteers’ and turned their backs on the Chinese flag ahead of a 2-0 win for the former British colony over Malaysia at Hong Kong Stadium in qualifying for the Asian Cup finals.”
Incidentally, these new, harsher penalties would also apply to citizens disrespecting the Chinese flag. For the central government in Beijing, it all goes back to the “One China” ideology, which purports that all of China, even semi-autonomous regions like Hong Kong, is subject to the mainland’s rule.
Zhang Rongshun, deputy director of the Standing Committee’s legislative affairs commission, says it’s about stopping a problem before it gets out of control:
“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. It is urgent and important to apply the national anthem law in Hong Kong to prevent and handle such offences.”
Amnesty International China researcher William Nee told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday that Beijing attempting to force semi-autonomous regions to adopt these harsh penalties “would clearly be out of step with international law.”
“Besides being incompatible with the right to freedom of expression to begin with,” he said, “extending the law to Hong Kong and Macau is also especially worrying. It could be the first step in chipping away at internationally recognised human rights, using mainland China’s nearly limitless and vague concept of national security.”