Local Legislation of the National Anthem Law Soon to Commence, Demanding Schools to Teach the National Anthem

PTU News Reporter

The government tabled working papers to the Panel on Constitution Affairs of the Legislative Council in March explaining the proposed content of the national anthem law, intending to commence the local legislation process of the national anthem law in Hong Kong. According to the working papers, the national anthem law will include provisions requiring primary and secondary schools to teach the national anthem on a compulsory basis. Meeting with Patrick NIP Tak-kuen on the 14th March, the HKPTU expressed concerns regarding the legislation of the national anthem law and its consequent impact on schools.

Legislation Unnecessary with Respect to Existing Education on the National Anthem

The national anthem law demands primary and secondary schools to educate students on the history and spirit of the national anthem, to observe the etiquette as required when the national anthem is played, and to educate students to sing the national anthem. Current curriculum documents of the Moral and Civic Education has already provided guidelines concerning the education on the national anthem, schools are required to educate students on the history of the national anthem and to teach how to sing it. Schools have long been following the guidelines. In occasions such as graduation ceremonies, sports days, and flag-raising ceremonies in morning assemblies, most schools have been carrying out flag-raising ceremonies and playing the national anthem. The HKPTU does not oppose to teach students national anthem, but HKPTU views it is unnecessary to legislate education concerning the national anthem as the current guidelines are clear and effective for its purpose; to regulate education concerning the national anthem will only create anxieties among schools in meeting the legal requirements of national anthem education.

While most of the schools are currently providing education on the national anthem, assessment on the performance of the national anthem is nonetheless optional. Questions arising from the legislation of the national anthem law awaits government clarifications. These questions include whether assessment on the abilities of students in singing the national anthem will be necessary, and whether examinations should be conducted to assess students on their knowledge of the history of the national anthem.  CHONG Yiu-kwong, Vice President of the HKPTU deems the commencement of the local legislation process of the national anthem law only acceptable when the Curriculum Development Council has conducted thorough consultation and discussion on the matter, and if the local legislation of the national anthem law creates significant alteration to the current education curriculum.

With the national law of the National anthem law specifying one of its purposes to be “enlisting the national anthem to be significant contents of patriotism education”, the Hong Kong government may include ‘patriotic education’ in the preamble of the local national anthem law. Although the Preamble forms part of the preliminary provisions, as opposed to the substantive provisions of the bill, the inclusion of “patriotic education” in the preamble may compel a different interpretation of the substantive provisions from which they would otherwise bear. Vice President of the HKPTU and Legislative Councillor IP Kin-yuen points to wording differences, stating that common wordings used in Mainland China as those seen in the national law of the national anthem law may not fit the context of Hong Kong, calling for the government to avoid using such wordings.

Frequent Unintended Offenses may Result from Over-general Definitions

In the proposal of the local legislation, the bill of the National anthem law will specify any public and wilful desecration of the national anthem to be considered as an offense, but a continuum of definitions exists for both “publicly” and “wilfully”, the former may include university campuses, primary and secondary school playgrounds, sports grounds in which schools’ sports events are taking place. Should students’ playful recital of the national anthem using the wrong wordings be considered an offense? A too-general definition may lead to unintended offenses by citizens. Before the local legislation of the national anthem law commence, it is the responsibility of the government to clarify definitions of the terms “publicly” and “wilfully”, and to make amendments when necessary in order to prevent an over-general definition, resulting in confusion among citizens in Hong Kong.

A special meeting of the Panel on Constitution Affairs of the Legislative Council will be held on the 28th April, inviting members of the public to give opinions concerning the local legislation of the National anthem law. FUNG Wai-wah, President of the HKPTU will be attending the said meeting. He will speak in the meeting and submit written opinions concerning the legislation, expressing concerns on the matter.