Hong Kong, Jun 4 (efe-epa).- The Hong Kong Legislative Council on Thursday passed a controversial law to penalize insults to the Chinese national anthem with up to three years of imprisonment.
Besides the prison term, the new law stipulates fines of up to $HK50,000 ($6,450) for any disrespect of the “March of the Volunteers”
The bill was passed in the legislature with 41 votes in favor and one against.
The law was passed after an interruption of several hours caused by an opposition party lawmaker who threw a foul liquid inside the house, prompting the police and firefighters to intervene.
The debate on the so-called national anthem law has been met with opposition from the city’s pro-democracy movement.
On May 27, a demonstration was held to prevent debate in the hemicycle, which resulted in fresh episodes of violence and more than 300 people arrested.
The passing of the law comes on a particularly delicate day, given that Thursday marked the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.
The Chinese Army had then cracked down on dissenters, killing an undetermined number of demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square as well as other parts across the country who were calling for political reform, democracy, and an end to corruption.
Since 1990, Hong Kong has commemorated the massacre with a mass vigil, although this year the police have not permitted it to be held, on grounds of public health owing to the current Covid-19 crisis, which has led the organizers to find alternative ways to mark the incident.
Moreover, last week, the Chinese Legislature passed a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that, according to lawyers and activists, could curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city.
However, it is still in the final drafting and approval phase under the Chinese authorities, and experts believe the law could come into effect between July and August since it will not be discussed in the legislature of Hong Kong.
The national security law will prohibit “any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion” against the central government, in addition to the “theft of state secrets and the organization of activities in Hong Kong by foreign political organizations”, terms that the Chinese government has previously used to curb dissent.
This move comes after nearly a year of pro-democracy mobilizations that have severely jolted Hong Kong’s economy and also resulted in clashes between the police and several violent protesters.
Article 23 of the Basic Law (which governs Hong Kong) stipulates that the city must endorse legislation on security made by Beijing, something that has always been extremely controversial among the population for fear that it would result in a reduction of freedoms.
Hong Kong has been gripped for several years by political unrest and demonstrations, which had been gaining momentum in the months leading up to the coronavirus outbreak, which led to them being suspended.
The territory was returned to Chinese control in 1997 after a century and a half of British rule after London and Beijing signed a joint declaration in 1984 under which the UK renounced its last Asian colony.
This deal established a series of freedoms in the city for 50 years, many of which do not exist in mainland China. EFE-EPA