Summary: On 12 December, Hong Kong lawmaker Claudia Mo said that the pro-democracy camp was not opposed to the national anthem law in principle, though she objected to the newest requirement that the anthem be played as lawmakers are sworn into office. Most HK localists are scandalized by this, because they do not think that patriotism can be compelled, just as the US Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that the Free Speech Clause of the 1st Amendment protects students from being forced to salute the American flag in public school. The localists, however, are not represented in the HK Legislative Council. The anthem controversy began with HK fans booing the national anthem during a HK vs Maldives football match in Mongkok in 2015. Consequently, Beijing passed a National Anthem Law in 2017 and demanded HK to enact it. Under the China Law, people who fail to stand up “solemnly” when the anthem plays may be detained for 15 days and/or prosecuted, while Americans who violate the US Flag Code face no punishment. American quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, and Nike have even profited lucratively from the “just do it” ad, capitalizing on Kaepernick’s refusal to stand up when the anthem played before his games.
During the Hong Kong v Maldives match in the FIFA World Cup qualification at Mong Kok Stadium in June 2015, HK fans booed when the national anthem was played ahead of the game. The booing reoccurred during the Hong Kong v Qatar match in September 2015. The National People’s Congress consequently adopted the National Anthem Law in 2017 and required Hong Kong to enact a corresponding law in due course. The pan-democrats are not opposed to it in principle. The only localist lawmakers, Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, who would not accept it, were disqualified by the HK Government in 2016.
China Anthem Law vs US Anthem Law
According to the Mainland China Anthem Law, those who fail to stand up straight “solemnly” when the anthem plays, and those who modify the lyrics or mock the song or play it during “inappropriate” occasions, could be detained for up to 15 days or face criminal prosecution. Contrastively, The US Flag Code states that when the US national anthem plays, persons present are expected to stand and face the flag, if there is one. Civilians should stand to attention with right hand over heart, while military personnel in uniform and veterans should salute throughout. The code is never enforced, however, and there is no punishment for breaching it.
An Anthem that does not Merit Respect?
Unlike the pro-democracy camp, which mostly embrace a pan-China ideology, the HK localists think that the anthem of a regime, that has caused the deaths of more than 70 million people (cf. Halliday and Chang 2005), and put 1 million Uyghurs in concentration camps, does not deserve respect, whereas the national anthem of America, which represents the spirit of freedom and democracy, does deserve respect. In fact, Tian Han (1898-1968), the composer of Communist China’s anthem, was persecuted to death during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, while Francis Scott Key, who composed the lyrics of The Star-spangled Banner, has always been well respected.
US Elites Profiting from Dishonoring the Anthem
While Hongkongers who fail to take the anthem “solemnly” may go to jail when the new law is enacted, certain Americans are able to make big money by disrespecting their anthem. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, American quarterback formerly with the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL), chose not to stand up while the United States national anthem was being played before the start of NFL games. He later stated this was to protest against racial injustice and systematic oppression in the United States. President Donald Trump condemned this act for being unpatriotic and said that professional athletes who protest during the US national anthem should be fired. Following his departure from the 49ers in 2016, Kaepernick went unsigned through the off-season. In November 2017, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing NFL owners of collusion to keep him out of the league because of his activism connected with the anthem. However, according to Dieter Kurtenbach (2017) from Foxsports, Kaepernick was not signed because he was a bad quarterback throughout 2016. In September 2018, Nike aired its first “Just do it” ad, narrated by Colin Kaepernick, who says: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” insinuating that he has sacrificed everything for his anthem-related activism. Nonetheless, the fact remains that after the ad came out, Nike’s market value has risen to 6 billion dollars and Kaepernick’s deal with Nike could be worth millions of dollars a year. Tucker Carlson from Fox News deems it decadent of US elites to profit from attacks on the country, which has enabled them to prosper in the first place.