Motion on “National Anthem Bill” (2020.06.04)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Chairman, I speak in opposition to the 21 amendments proposed by four Members.

The National Anthem Bill (“the Bill”) is very simple with only 14 clauses and three schedules. It is not very different from the existing National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance. It merely seeks people’s respect for the national anthem. Nevertheless, for the sake of the Bill, the opposition camp has reacted so strongly as to obstruct the election of the Chairman of the House Committee at all costs in an attempt to cripple the legislative work of the Council. The situation ended up in such a mess that the President had to give an order eventually to set things right.

Even when the scrutiny of the Bill could be resumed, the opposition camp has still proposed 49 amendments, of which 21 were ruled admissible by the President. The opposition camp regards the Bill as a great scourge, but is it really a matter of concern to the public? In fact, the Bill only seeks people’s respect for the national anthem and will not affect people’s daily life at all. As long as people do not openly challenge the Bill by insulting the national anthem deliberately they will not breach the law at all. Hence, I find these 21 amendments unnecessary. The Government has also clarified that it will not violate the law as long as the national anthem is not insulted publicly, deliberately and intentionally. Most importantly, it is up to the court to convict a person upon trials and we have confidence in the court of Hong Kong. Therefore, not so many people are actually worried.

After a year of consultation on the Bill and 17 meetings spanning over 50 hours on discussion held by the Bills Committee to gauge the opinions from various sectors, including inviting the public to express their views, many people still do not understand the Bill or even mislead others deliberately. The Government has undertaken to step up publicity, but it must be more down-to-earth and explain the Bill in a language intelligible to the public. Otherwise, it will be no match for the strong propaganda of the opposition camp. In fact, from now on, the Government must be prepared to face up to the smearing and distortions by international propaganda campaigns in respect of every policy it formulates, in particular those relating to the Mainland, because they will not stop until chaos are stirred up. This situation will be the norm in the future. The success or otherwise of policy implementation will largely depend on how the Government deploys its manpower and strategies to cope with it.

Chairman, every country around the world plays and sings its national anthem on specified occasions. People present, regardless of their nationalities, will stand solemnly and pay their respect. This is basic manner and respect, especially when it is the national anthem of one’s own country. Article 5 of the Bill provides for the “Occasions on which national anthem must be played and sung”. The five amendments proposed by Members today seeking to intervene in the power to amend these occasions do not hold water because the occasions set out are either official occasions or major sporting events held by the Government. Moreover, amendments to Schedule 3 will be subject to negative vetting should the Government wish to increase the number of occasions on which the national anthem has to be played and sung. That is to say, the Legislative Council will be the final gatekeeper. Therefore, these amendments are unnecessary. People around the world seldom disrespect the national flag and national anthem of their own countries. Deliberate obstruction to the enactment of the Bill for political reasons is only a wishful thinking of the “mutual destruction camp” which will definitely not receive public support.

Three Members have proposed five amendments to clause 7 of the Bill in relation to “Offence of insulting behaviour”. These amendments mainly seek to significantly reduce the penalties and shorten the retrospective period for the purpose of rendering the Bill empty and lacking deterrent effect. As I have said earlier, provided that the public do not insult the national anthem deliberately, there is no need to be afraid of or worried about breaking the law and the penalties provided that the public do not insult the national anthem deliberately. Moreover, the lack of appropriate penalties or undue leniency thereof is unacceptable as it may conversely encourage radical young people to challenge the law.

In addition, some people claimed that the term “insulting” is too vague and the definition is ambiguous. There are even criticisms accusing the Bill of literary inquisition. These highly biased comments are actually made for the sake of opposition. The Government has refuted them from a legal point of view many times. I will not go into details here, but the gist is that the term “insulting” is used in many pieces of legislation in Hong Kong, including the Labour Tribunal Ordinance and the Magistrates Ordinance, under which it has a clear definition. The opposition camp has obviously put its standpoint before everything and made arbitrary comments in order to start a confrontation. In short, they sought to create public grievances and hatred.

Since the Council commenced the scrutiny of the Bill last week, some people has been inciting others online to obstruct the passage of the Bill by various violent means, causing some tense moments outside. Fortunately, the meeting could be held as scheduled. Obstructing the enactment of the legislation in Hong Kong through organized violence will only highlight the urgency of the Hong Kong national security law. It actually makes sense that many people called the “mutual destruction camp” the driving force for the Hong Kong National Security Law. I hope the “mutual destruction camp” will think twice about it.

Recently, the “mutual destruction camp” has succeeded in persuading the United States to launch the cancellation of Hong Kong’s preferential treatment and other sanctions against Hong Kong. The most direct victims will be Hong Kong people. The actions of the “mutual destruction camp” in recent couple of years have actually improved the life of Hong Kong people, or pushed them into an abyss of turmoil and hardships? I hope they will give serious consideration to whether they should continue such practice the way ahead. I really hope they can understand that the ultimate duty of Members is to promote a stable life for the people. They should absolutely not do anything to harm the safety of Hong Kong and make Hong Kong even more unstable. Otherwise, they will be doing an utmost disservice to Hong Kong people.

Thank you, Chairman.

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