As if Hong Kong’s miserable, friendless, talent-light puppet administration didn’t have enough holes to dig itself out of, Chinese officials decree that the city must fall into line with new ultra-tough Mainland punishments – up to three years in prison – for disrespecting the national anthem. (If it feels like the Mainland law was toughened as a pretext to symbolically and actually impose it on Hong Kong, you are probably not being paranoid. Local soccer fans who booed the anthem a year or so back hit a major nerve up there.)
Pro-Beijing sycophants have scrambled to promote, endorse and even explain the move, even though they have no more idea what is happening than anyone else. Annoying lawmaker Priscilla Leung clumsily highlighted the farce to come when she pontificated about whether people could be arrested for singing the March of the Volunteers off-tune, or for answering their phone mid-performance. Rita Fan (a member of the ceremonial legislative body supposedly responsible for the new Chinese law) tried to sound menacing rather than vague, when she said the measure might be retroactive in Hong Kong, or it might not.
To clarify things, genuine stern and authoritative Beijing official Li Fei passed the word that people would have to stand for the anthem at horse-racing events. Local patriotic politician Ip Kwok-him rushed to add that everyone must stop walking and stand still when they hear the rousing piece. Civil servant-turned-Beijing-loyalist Fanny Law reassures us that people won’t be arrested for failing to stand.
(For an amusing description of the challenges of instilling discipline among Hong Kong race-goers, read this.)
The fact is, no-one knows how to implement this over-the-top Communist Party control-freakery. That includes the Hong Kong government, which is now toning down promises of public consultation (a direct ‘tremble and obey’ edict from Beijing rules out even the usual quasi-consultative process).
Pro-establishment voices desperate to sound reasonable invite us to draw comparisons with the USA. Even in the Land of the Free, they point out, footballers who kneel during the anthem have stoked controversy – therefore Beijing’s anthem law is no biggie.
Is this parallel convincing?
Firstly, few in the US seriously suggest three-year prison sentences for not standing during the anthem (or parodying or mocking it). More to the point, the US sportsmen are protesting an injustice, namely racist police violence. The critics denouncing the kneeling as disrespectful to the nation and its symbols are (at best) trying to change the subject out of discomfort.
If you want parallels with the US, you could concede that not standing for the anthem is a valid form of protest against oppression and injustice. Or you could oppose such protest because you want to deny that creeping Leninist authoritarianism is a problem – or you support it and hate uppity activists.
So much for that parallel. Hongkongers who disrespect the anthem at the very least feel zero emotional attachment to China’s Communist regime, and in the case of the boo-ers, actively loath it and what it is doing to their city. Beijing’s logic is that imposing its anthem law on Hong Kong will make that disappear. The local administration has to pretend that makes sense.
Seems like a great way to shut up the Victoria Park uncle types – play the anthem off your phone, make them shut up, whenever they are spouting mindless pro Beijing stuff.
Oh the sputtering there will be when Hong Kong crowds exercise creative malicious obedience. Standing facing the wrong way. Standing the right way around but on one leg. Standing on both feet facing the right way but doing the chicken dance. Standing on both feet facing the right way with the hand over the heart but sticking out and wiggling the posterior. Standing on perfectly still both feet facing the right way straight as a flag pole with the hand over the heart but making farting noises with the mouth.
Stop and stand whenever you hear the anthem – even while crossing the road? Or if you’re in a wheelchair? And if a band is rehearsing the anthem somewhere, will everyone within earshot have to remain standing rigidly until the rehearsal is finished? Still, at least couch potatoes will get a modicum of exercise having to stand up every day when TVB Jade plays it before the 6:30 evening news.
How about playing it in Legco, once filibustering is banned? Or in public toilets? Or on racing minibuses?
Just think of the benefits of being required to stand!
* Users of public toilets can no longer spend all day in the cubicle. Simply play the anthem on your mobile phone every five minuted and they will have to stand immediately. WITHOUT WIPING! After that horror, they’ll be out of the cubicle within five minutes, before the next rendition!
* When the pedestrian crossing shows the red man, simply play the anthem! Although directional speakers will be required to prevent those crossing on the green man nearby from freezing in mid-crossing.
* Think of the boon to those who retrofit sun roofs to cars – every one will need one when the anthem is played on the car radio!
* And just think of the fun/embarrassment (and subsequent prison sentences) when the anthem is played at the Paralympics!!
I could go on but you get the point. Having national anthem law in Hong Kong is about as much use as fitting a catflap to an elephant house. ‘Nuff said.
Ah, standing on a pedestrian footbridge near Exchange Square during lunchtime and playing the anthem from a boombox. Hours of fun.
This promises to be a terrible fiasco and ongoing source of embarrassment for the HK Government and the CPC. Couldn’t happen to a nicer kleptocratic dictatorship and it
troupe of spineless puppets. I look forward to great amusement, as my fellow
Hongkongers subvert or ignore this futile law in all manner of cunning ways.
However it is a bit of a toss-up as to which futile legislation that will win this year’s coveted “Ill-considered Legislation Most Doomed to End in Embarrassing Failure at the Hands of a Deeply Subversive Populace Award”: the anthem foolishness has some very stiff competition in the Quantity-based waste charging scheme.
Why don’t these umbrella revolution types put it on their iPod or whatever device they possess during a protest and then when the Police ask them to move on they can politely ask the attending officer whether he is inciting an offence?
Whilst it pains me to say this, I think I found myself agreeing with Regina Ip in the New China Morning Post on Sunday. The gist of what she seemed to be saying was that the best way to stop people booing is to make sure they had nothing to boo about… Brilliant solution … Or was I missing the point..?
The beatings will stop when morale improves.