No ex­cuse for in­sult­ing na­tional an­them

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT HK - STAFF WRITER

Op­po­si­tion par­ties and their sup­port­ers are alarmed by the up­com­ing Na­tional An­them Bill the spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion govern­ment will sub­mit to the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil later this month.

Their com­plaints, though mostly tech­ni­cal, are po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and thinly veiled at­tempts to get away with in­sult­ing the na­tional an­them on tech­ni­cal­i­ties such as the pe­riod of lim­i­ta­tion to pros­e­cute. Some op­po­si­tion fig­ures also claimed the draft Na­tional An­them Bill has failed to clearly de­fine acts of “in­sult­ing the na­tional an­them”. They also claimed it may al­low the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to pros­e­cute cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als will­fully — even though the draft bill has yet to be sub­mit­ted to LegCo.

Many mem­bers of the pub­lic im­me­di­ately dis­missed such com­ments as lame ex­cuses — be­cause they re­ally are.

Sec­re­tary for Con­sti­tu­tional and Main­land Af­fairs Pa­trick Nip Tak-kuen said in his open­ing speech at the press brief­ing on Wednesday: “The leg­isla­tive prin­ci­ple of the Na­tional An­them Bill is to fully re­flect the pur­pose and in­tent of the Na­tional An­them Law, which is to pre­serve the dig­nity of the na­tional an­them and pro­mote re­spect for it and at the same time to give due re­gard to the com­mon law sys­tem prac­ticed in Hong Kong, as well as the ac­tual cir­cum­stances in Hong Kong.”

With this in mind peo­ple only need to stand at solemn at­ten­tion when the Na­tional An­them of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China is played cer­e­mo­ni­ously un­der pub­lic eye. The draft bill does con­tain the phrase “pub­licly in­sult­ing the na­tional an­them”. Is such be­hav­ior truly hard to tell, as some op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers have sug­gested?

When used as a verb, in­sult is al­ways an in­ten­tional act. Can any­one ac­cept that some law­mak­ers may not be able to tell an act of in­sult­ing the na­tional an­them when they see it? Or are we sup­posed to be­lieve it is pos­si­ble to “re­spect” the na­tional an­them hate­fully? The fact is some op­po­si­tion politi­cians ha­bit­u­ally as­sume they can take the pub­lic for fools over ju­di­cial mat­ters and get away with it. For ex­am­ple, some of them ac­cused the govern­ment of us­ing the na­tional an­them leg­is­la­tion as a way to dis­qual­ify op­po­si­tion mem­bers of LegCo — as if they should be ex­cused for in­sult­ing the na­tional an­them when they feel like it. One may won­der if they are will­ing and pre­pared to demon­strate such a sce­nario one of these days.

As for com­plaints over the pro­posed pe­riod of lim­i­ta­tion to pros­e­cute some­one for pub­licly in­sult­ing the na­tional an­them, which is set at two years in the draft Na­tional An­them Bill, let’s just say it mat­ters the most to those who wish to pub­licly in­sult the na­tional an­them one way or an­other with­out con­se­quences. It is much eas­ier to re­frain from com­mit­ting such acts than to find an ex­cuse which works.

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