Summary: Hong Kong’s controversial proposed National Anthem Law went through first and second readings in the Legislative Council today (Jan. 23), which would penalize with a maximum sentence of three years in jail and a fine of HKD50,000 any “disrespect” towards China’s anthem. Under draft legislation introduced on Jan. 9, compulsory classes on China’s anthem, covering the spirit of the anthem and the etiquette for singing and playing it, will become a legal requirement for all secondary and primary schools in HK, including international schools, such that expatriates’ (e.g. Western diplomats and bankers) kids in HK will be in effect required to swear allegiance to Red China. In this way, HK students and teachers may report and inform on each other just as in the Cultural Revolution. Dr. Leung Yan-wing, Adjunct Professor, Education University of HK, recently said that forcing students to sing and respect an anthem of a country they feel resentful about is equal to teaching them to be dishonest. Today, in protest against the anthem law, Ivan Lam, Chair of Demosisto, asserted that “we have not only the right to speak, but also the right not to speak. We have the right to not sing and express our respect for the National Anthem.” This reminds one of Dr. Hu Shih’s (Former Republic of China Ambassador to USA) quote, “The Chinese are deprived of a right even more basic to freedom of speech, i.e., the right to remain silent.”
Expatriates’ Kids Forced to Swear Allegiance to China?
According to the draft bill, the classes will cover “the history and the spirit” behind “The March of the Volunteers” as well as the “etiquette for playing and singing the national anthem”. Children will have to “stand solemnly” and “not behave in a way disrespectful to the national anthem”. That is to say, in a disguised way, expatriates’ kids in HK will be required by law to swear allegiance to a foreign country. This may cause many expatriates with children studying in international schools in HK to raise their eyebrows.
Are teachers & students gonna inform on each other as in Cultural Revolution?
Moreover, when the law is enacted, in all schools in HK, including international schools, when a student sings the national anthem of China playfully or inaccurately, e.g., with a foreign accent, he or she may be penalized by the school as well as reported to the police so that he or she may end up in a training center! Reversely, any student may report any teacher disrespectfully or improperly teaching or singing the national anthem to the police. This is going to mirror the Cultural Revolution in which teachers and students, parents and children, superiors and subordinates, reported and informed on each other.
Dr. Leung Yan-wing, Adjunct Professor, Education University of Hong Kong, recently said in an online program, “Moments of Grace, Christian Times”, that the enactment of the National Anthem Law may in effect induce students to say what they do not mean, to lie and to fake. For since the Tofu-dreg projects in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, the persecution of dissidents like Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, the disqualification of Hong Kong lawmakers, etc., young Hongkongers’ impression of China has been negative. Enactment of the National Anthem Law will only make some of them even more indifferent to, and resentful about, the National Anthem. For example, a primary school teacher who was appointed by the principal to teach to be solemn and respectful at the flag-raising ceremony complained to Dr. Leung that whenever he saw the flag being raised, he thought of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The right to remain silent gone
Today, in protest against the National Anthem Law, a group of Demosisto members rushed into the Civic Square next to the Legco, and unfurled a banner declaring “Freedom not to sing praises.” Ivan Lam, Chair of Demosisto, explained that freedom of speech, which is most valued by Hongkongers, means “we have not only the right to speak, but also the right not to speak. We have the right to not express our respect for the National Anthem.” This reminds one of Dr. Hu Shih’s (Former Republic of China Ambassador to America) quote, “The Chinese are deprived of a right even more basic to freedom of speech, i.e., the right to remain silent.”
Author: Chapman Chen from Local Press