This was the scene of repeated football matches in Hong Kong as fans in the semi-autonomous Chinese city expressed their contempt that they were represented by the national anthem of the People's Republic of China.
Such disregard of the "march of the volunteers" will soon be illegal, as Hong Kong passed a highly controversial national anthem law, which critics claim could undermine its constitutional protection of free speech, set the standards for gambling and Make singing "March" and make it a criminal offense, punished with up to three years in prison "to insult the national anthem."
Students, even at international schools, would be required by law to learn the anthem that begins with the line: "Arise, we refuse to be slaves!"
The National Anthem Law was introduced in mainland China in 201
7 amid widespread indignation north of the border on the disrespect committed by some Hong Kongers – mainly a small subgroup of football fans – for the song.
After their passage added that as National People's Congress of China recognized the law in Annex III of the Basic Law of the De facto Constitution of Hong Kong. This meant that the city government was required by law to introduce equivalent laws, regardless of whether the law contradicted the guarantees of freedom of expression enshrined in the Basic Law.
"The legislative principle of the bill is intended to fully reflect the purpose and intent of the National Anthem Law, which promotes the preservation of the dignity of the national anthem and the promotion of respect for the national anthem, while respecting the customary system practiced in Hong Kong, as well as the Hong Kong's actual circumstances, "the city government said earlier this month.
Before a legislative debate, Patrick Nip, Secretary of State for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs of the city, said his "key performance indicator is not measured by how many people are being prosecuted for insulting the anthem."
"While the law aims to ensure that those who insult the song have a price to pay for, the last thing I want is criminal proceedings, I really hope that there will be no such case after that Law came into effect. "Nip said.
The Government members have a majority in the Legislative Council and it is generally expected that the law will be passed.
Outside the legislature, pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said that the National Anthem Law was about protecting the country's "dignity".
"I believe that all Hong Kong people are against open and deliberate insults against the national anthem," she said.
"Threat of the free speech & # 39;
For critics of the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, the National Anthem Law is the latest blow against the freedoms that set the city apart from China.
These freedoms have emerged in recent years from democratically elected legislators Others excluded the right to vote and numerous persecutions of activists and democracy movements.
The media and other bodies fear increasing self-censorship. Last year, a Financial Times news editor was denied a visa to stay in Hong Kong after having formed a proxy figure in the Foreign Correspondent's Club.
The case was the first time in modern times that a journalist was excluded from work in the city. As a result, several events involving Chinese dissidents were canceled, with self-censorship, although one later took place.
The vagueness of the National Anthem Law will only lead to more self-censorship in the future, said Kevin Carrico, Chinese Studies Lecturer at Monash University, Australia.
"Beyond the Threat of Freedom of Speech, of Inaccurate Nature The attack on" insulting "is an unprecedented challenge to the rule of law in Hong Kong, one of the city's great strengths compared to China," Carrico wrote this week.
"The law is thus not just a threat to Hong Kong." Fundamental freedoms, but indeed for the entire legal system. Ironically, Beijing and its allies use the established rule of law of Hong Kong, one of Hong Kong's key political and economic assets, to effectively regulate the rule of law.
Activists held a brief protest Wednesday morning to link flagpoles outside the legislature with a pro-democracy banner, and China demonstrators were also present, calling for the law to be implemented.
"What the National Anthem Law says , Respect (to the anthem) is required by legislation. But respect can not be won through legislation, "said Democratic lawmaker and government critic Claudia Mo to CNN.
" Respect must be won by oneself. You can not force others to respect you unwillingly. "