Given the ambiguous words in the bill as well as a harsh penalty, National Anthem Law may eventually become a tool for political suppression as the government can penalise citizen by wilfully interpreting their intention, such as disqualifying Legislative Councillor, arresting dissidents and suppressing the freedom of speech, expression and creation. According to Clause 7 in the bill, a person is prohibited from publicly and intentionally insulting the national anthem in any way. A person who intentionally publishes (a) the altered lyrics or score of the national anthem, or the national anthem be played and sung in a distorted or disrespectful way, with intent to insult the national anthem will be liable to a maximum fine of $50000 and imprisonment for 3 years. Words with vague concepts such as “insulting’, “distorted” and “disrespected” were used, yet there is not any clear standard to define them. Students’ Unions of Higher Institutions oppose any regime that uses criminal law as a mean to regulate citizens’ subjective ideas. We also oppose any abstract concepts including National Symbols, national dignity, national identity and even political ideology, that should be examined, discussed and criticised, be placed above human rights. Additionally, in accordance with “Principle 7: Protected Expression” of The Johannesburg Principles, the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, for instance, derivative work, insult or criticism towards the nation, the state or its symbols, the government, its agencies, or public officials, shall never be considered a threat to national security or subjected to any restrictions or penalties. Therefore, even if someone makes a speech or act on the national anthem, the national flag or the national emblem which may be offensive to the regime, if such speech or act does not constitute immediate violence, people’s freedom of expression should be guaranteed.
In this regard, Students’ Unions of Higher Institutions solemnly request the Hong Kong Government to withdraw the Bill immediately. We warn that any regime should not attempt to regulate the freedom of expression, expression and creation of the public through severe laws and penalties.
The Hong Kong University Students’ Union
The Student Union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong Students’ Union
Joint Student Union of Caritas Institute of Higher Education and Caritas Bianchi College of Careers
The Provisional Executive Committee of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Students’ Union
Hong Kong Federation of Students
The Provisional Executive Committee of City University of Hong Kong Students’ Union
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students’ Union
Student Union of Chu Hai College of Higher Education
16th January 2019