Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passed a bill on Thursday that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem, a move critics see as the latest sign of Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.
The Bill was passed with 41 in favour and one against.
The ruling comes as people in Hong Kong are set to light candles across the city to commemorate the 1989 crackdown by Chinese troops in and around Tiananmen Square.
The Bill allows for punishment of those who insult the anthem with up to three years jail and/or fines of up to HK$50,000 ($6,450). It states that “all individuals and organisations” should respect and dignify the national anthem and play it and sing it on “appropriate occasions”.
Police and firefighters entered Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday after two pro-democracy lawmakers threw foul-smelling liquid to protest against China’s “murderous” crackdown by Chinese troops in and around Tiananmen Square 31 years ago.
Lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan rushed to the front of the chamber during a debate over a controversial bill. Police and firefighters later arrived on the scene.
“A murderous state stinks forever. What we did today is to remind the world that we should never forgive the Chinese Communist Party for killing its own people 31 years ago,” Mr. Chu said later, before he and Chan were removed from the chamber.
Also read: China 30 years after Tiananmen protests: More prosperity, repression
For the first time, police have banned an annual vigil to mark the event that is usually held in downtown Victoria Park, citing the coronavirus outbreak.
The disruption in the legislature came after pro-establishment lawmakers vetoed most amendments to the anthem bill proposed by democrats.
Tensions in the Chinese-ruled city have ramped up after Beijing gave the green light last week to move ahead with national security laws to tackle secession, subversion and foreign interference.
The move was quickly condemned by the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada, as well as international human rights groups and some business lobbies over concerns it will erode freedoms in the global financial hub.
Chinese authorities and the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong say there is no threat to the city’s high degree of autonomy and the new security law would be tightly focused.
Breaking with their usual policy of political neutrality, HSBC and Standard Chartered banks gave their backing to the new law on Hong Kong on Wednesday.