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Hong Kong to discuss law to imprison national anthem protesters

Hong Kong vs. China
Hong Kong fans

Hong Kong authorities on Friday unveiled planned legislation punishing anyone who insults China's national anthem with up to three years in prison, after football fans have repeatedly booed it at matches.

The legislation also calls for anyone who is present when "March of The Volunteers" is played to "stand and deport themselves respectfully," and that it be required to be taught to students.

The anthem has become a political flashpoint in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city where jeers from football fans are commonly heard, and have drawn warnings and fines from FIFA.

Hong Kong's government is acting after Beijing last year enacted a new National Anthem Law and amended China's criminal code so that anyone disrespecting the anthem can be imprisoned. China's legislature also added it to Hong Kong's Basic Law constitution, requiring the city to introduce local legislation.

The proposed law adds to concerns that Beijing is eroding civil liberties in Hong Kong despite promises to maintain them following its 1997 handover from Britain. Pro-democracy activists and lawmakers worry the law will be used to undermine free speech in Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system.

Under the new law, anyone who "publicly and willfully alters the lyrics or the score of the national anthem," performs or sings it in "a distorted or derogatory manner," or insults it in "any other manner" would be fined up to 50,000 Hong Kong dollars (about $6,400) and imprisoned for up to three years.

The proposal also calls for primary and secondary schools to teach pupils the anthem as well as "to observe the etiquette" when it is sung or played.

The proposal will be discussed on March 23 in Hong Kong's legislature.

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