The ongoing struggle between China and protesters in Hong Kong took a new turn when thousands of protesters shouted pro-democracy slogans and insults at police in Hong Kong on Wednesday. The reason? Lawmakers were debating a bill that would criminalize abuse of the Chinese national anthem in the semi-autonomous city.
The police massed outside the legislative building, warning protesters to disperse before they shot pepper balls at the crowd and searched several people. Incidents in other parts of the city led to arrests and warnings issued to journalists filming the unrest. Small fires were lit as protests dragged into the night.
Opponents of the bill say it is a blow to freedom of expression in the city, while Beijing officials say, somewhat optimistically, that it will foster a patriotic spirit and socialist values. “Western democracies all have laws to protect their national flags, national anthems and emblems. Any insulting acts toward these symbols would also be criminal,” pro-Beijing lawmaker Tony Tse said in the legislative debate. “The purpose of this is to protect the dignity of a country,” he said. [source: France24]
Anthem booed at football matches
Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok disagrees. For him, the legislation would not help gain the respect of people and was merely an excuse to control freedom, speech and ideas of people. “We oppose the second reading of the national anthem bill, not because we don’t respect the national anthem. The national anthem is a symbol of the country’s dignity. If it wants to be respected, then let this government first respect the rights and freedoms of its people first,” Mok said.
The bill was initially proposed in January 2019 after spectators from Hong Kong booed the anthem during international soccer matches. Last year, FIFA fined the Hong Kong Football Association for the same reason, fans booing the national anthem at a World Cup qualifying game