A new law banning any "insult" to the national anthem of the People's Republic of China that took effect last month could soon be applied in Hong Kong, possibly retroactively, the city's chief executive has suggested.
China's National People's Congress standing committee passed the law on Sept. 1, and Hong Kong is in the process of enshrining the law into its separate statute book.
The law could be enacted in Hong Kong as early as next month, and could be used to target soccer fans who have booed or shouted slogans when the anthem was played at football matches in recent years, local media reported.
"Although it’s been approved as a national law, in order to introduce it in Hong Kong, there has to be some adaptation which is similar to what we did earlier on the national flag law," chief executive Carrie Lam told journalists as the ruling Chinese Communist Party began its 19th party congress this week.
"During consultation, people can express their views on the retroactive aspects of it. When it comes to enacting new laws in Hong
Kong, not many have retroactive powers, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any," Lam said.
Legal academic Eric Cheung said the Basic Law prohibits retroactive laws through its requirement that the government adhere to international human rights treaties, however.
In a Facebook post, Cheung called on Lam's administration to issue a clarification. "The chief executive cannot possibly be so uninformed about the Basic Law and the possibility of enacting a retroactive law," he wrote.
Wang Guangya, Beijing's recently retired envoy to Hong Kong, said the anthem regulations could be dealt with in a manner consistent with the city's different legal system, without commenting on the possibility of retroactive enforcement.
"I think that Hong Kong can do this in accordance with its own legal system," Wang told reporters.
"The most important thing is this: Any citizen of this country should show respect to their country, its national anthem, and its national flag," he said.
"This is a fundamental requirement, which I hope everyone agrees with," Wang said.
Booing could backfire
Earlier this week, Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said the booing of the national anthem at soccer matches was a way for the people of Hong Kong to express their dissatisfaction with Beijing, and could backfire.
"They seem to think that this can be achieved simply by passing legislation requiring people to respect the national anthem," Wu told RFA. "They think that the harder they crack down, the more cowed people will become."
"But that's not true respect from the heart," he said. "If they want people to show genuine respect, then they shouldn't be encouraging them to fake it."
"There is a deep rift [between Hong Kong and Beijing] that is getting wider and wider, but it isn't being recognized," Wu said.
On Wednesday, President Xi Jinping told delegates to the 19th party congress that the ruling Chinese Communist Party will maintain "a firm grasp" on Hong Kong, and exercise "full powers of governance" in the city.
Xi told delegates that Beijing's jurisdiction over the city, and the former Portuguese enclave of Macau, should not be shaken, amid concerns that the "one country, two systems" principle has already been diluted by repeated interventions in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, across the internal border in mainland China, a mobile game that encourages people to applaud Xi's three-and-a-half hour speech has gone viral on social media, garnering more than one billion “claps” by Thursday afternoon.
In the game, made by Tencent, viewers are shown highlights of the marathon speech that had former president Jiang Zemin checking his watch on a number of occasions, then have 19 seconds to hit an “applaud” button superimposed on an image of the Great Hall of the People as many times as possible within the set time.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Lam Kwok-lap for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.