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In search of common sense in Hong Kong’s national anthem debate

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14.01.2019

Some 50 years ago, I lived for a few months in Bangkok. Our local cinema always played the Thai national anthem before the main feature film. There was a small notice at the bottom of the screen telling us to stand and everyone did. Even though I was a hippy at the time, and by nature rebellious, it seemed perfectly natural to stand along with everyone else.

I still remember there was a point during the rendition when the music stopped, the farangs in the audience would start to sit down but the locals remained standing. Sure enough, after a few seconds, the music resumed. I record this experience to illustrate that playing a country’s national anthem, and expecting everyone – both local and foreign – to show respect is by no means a new phenomenon in Asia.

It seems worthwhile pointing this out as we start our own community’s consideration of a bill to make respecting the Chinese national anthem, March of the Volunteers, a legal requirement. Or, to put it another way, disrespecting the anthem will be an offence potentially leading to a significant fine and even a jail term.

Judging by some of the reactions in the media and on talk shows, you would think this was the jackboot of a wicked administration coming down to crush the last vestige of freedom of the Hong Kong people. Is it really? Are espousers of such views being just a tiny bit hysterical? Has anyone heard of hyperbole?

Take, for example, the claim that the draft bill does not outline all the possible ways of behaving that might constitute disrespect.........

© South China Morning Post