Hong Kong plans to jail people who publicly insult national anthem

A new bill was introduced on Wednesday in the Hong Kong Legislative Council which, if passed, will make insults to Chinese national anthem a criminal offence and invite jail time and fines, agencies report.

The move comes amid rise in incidents of booing during national anthem at football matches.

While citizens are expected to respect national anthem, the proposed bill has raised concern over growing curbs on freedom of expression in the semi-autonomous city.

The National Anthem Law will penalise those who publicly and intentionally insult the anthem, ‘March of the Volunteers’, with a maximum fine of HK$50,000 ($6,372) and three years jail time.

As the bill was being presented on Wednesday, pro-democracy activists tied a banner to the flagpoles of the council building while pro-Beijing legislators held banners asking critics of the bill to safeguard national dignity and support the anthem law.

Under the proposed law, all schoolchildren, including those who attend international schools, must learn the anthem,

The anthem law is expected to spark protests.

Pro-democracy protests in 2014 called the Umbrella Movement drew thousands of people to the streets of Hong Kong to rally against China’s move to vet all Hong Kong candidates seeking election.

In September last year, the government banned the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party and barred its leader Andy Chan from contesting elections.