Hong Kong’s looming national anthem law may not apply to anything before the date it’s actually in effect, but the city’s legislature has the power to make it so if there is any “large-scale” breach of the rules after the government submits a draft bill, said a top Beijing official.
The remarks by Elsie Leung Oi-sie, vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee, which advises Chinese state leaders on Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, came after football fans booed the national anthem on Thursday at a match against Bahrain.
The national anthem law, effective on the mainland from last month, means anyone who maliciously modifies the lyrics, or plays or sings the song in “a distorted or disrespectful way in public” can be imprisoned for up to three years.
“The criminal law normally is not retroactive,” Leung said on Sunday. “I also think [the anthem law] should not be retroactive.
“[But] if there is large-scale breach before legislation, I believe the Legislative Council has the right to make it retroactive after [the government] submits a draft bill if necessary.”
China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, decided to incorporate the mainland’s national anthem law into Hong Kong’s Basic Law on November 4. That means the city’s government now has to pass a local law to the same effect.
A match between Hong Kong and Lebanon will take place tonight in Hong Kong, as part of the third round of matches in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.