Pro-democracy activists and lawmakers fear a national anthem law could be used to undermine freedom of speech in Hong Kong.
China’s top legislature has endorsed an amendment to the criminal code to make abuse of the national anthem or flag punishable by up to three years in prison.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed an amendment to the country’s criminal law outlining punishments for people found “seriously” disrespecting the national anthem in public.
The National Anthem Law, which went into effect on Oct. 1, has now been included in an annex of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, or mini constitution, state news agency Xinhua said. It will also be included in an annex of Macau’s Basic Law, Xinhua reported.
Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a so-called “one country, two systems” formula that promises the city a high degree of autonomy, including an independent judiciary.
Hong Kong’s government, dominated by Beijing loyalists, has begun including it in local legislation.The anthem has been booed at recent football fixtures in Hong Kong, where anti-Beijing sentiment has been rising.