The Legislative Assembly (AL) Monday passed the outline of a government-initiated bill amending the existing local law on the use and protection of the national flag, national emblem and national anthem.
The amendment bill “localises” the country’s National Anthem Law to be applied in Macau, following its inclusion in Annex 3 of the Macau Basic Law as one of the national laws to be applied in the special administrative region.
Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan introduced the outline of the bill during a plenary session in the legislature’s hemicycle yesterday.
The bill proposes that when the national anthem is performed and sung, those present shall stand and deport themselves respectfully. Offenders will face a fine of between 2,000 patacas and 10,000 patacas.
Chan reassured the public that this rule is only applicable to those who are attending official events, as well as those who are attending other private events when the organisers announce that the national anthem is to be performed and sung. Chan said that this rule is not applicable to situations such as when the national anthem is being played on the TV in a restaurant. Mentioning another example, Chan said it was impossible for a bus driver to stop his vehicle and then stand when he or she hears that the national anthem is being performed and sung nearby.
Chan noted that the country’s National Anthem Law was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing on September 1 last year and took effect on October 1.
Chan noted that on November 4 the NPC Standing Committee passed a decision to include the National Anthem Law in the Macau Basic Law’s Annex 3 for it to be applied in Macau.
On November 4, the NPC Standing Committee adopted decisions to apply the National Anthem Law both in Hong Kong and Macau, the nation’s two special administrative regions. According to the decisions, the National Anthem Law was to be included in Annex 3 of the Hong Kong Basic Law and Annex 3 of the Macau Basic Law. Both annexes list the national laws, resolutions and regulations to be applied in the two autonomous regions.
According to the basic laws of Hong Kong and Macau, national laws shall not be applied in the two regions, except for those listed in Annex 3 of their respective basic laws.
According to Chan, Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On formalised November’s decision by the NPC Standing Committee by promulgating it in Macau’s Official Gazette (BO) on December 4.
Chan said that the local government needed to draft related local legislation in line with the local legal system, as well as taking into account the specific situation in Macau, in order to ensure the effective implementation of the National Anthem Law in Macau.
Chan said that the local government, therefore, started the legislative process in December last year to draft related local legislation for the National Anthem Law to be applied in Macau.
Chan noted that Macau’s legislature had already passed local Law No. 5/1999 on the Establishment Day of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) on December 20, 1999 which regulates the use and protection of the national flag, national emblem and national anthem. She said that the local government, therefore, was proposing amendments to this local piece of legislation, with the aim of applying related rules in the National Anthem Law in Macau.
Local Law No. 5/1999 states that the nation’s symbols – the national flag, national emblem and national anthem – are to be respected and protected.
According to Article 9 (1) of the law, blatant insults or disrespect to a national symbol (the national flag, national emblem and national anthem) are punishable by a fine or up to three years’ imprisonment.
According to Article 9 (2.2), the act of maliciously not following the score or modifying the lyrics when playing the national anthem constitutes disrespect to a national symbol.
According to Chan, the bill proposes that the national anthem must not be used in trademarks or commercial advertisements, at private funerals, and as background music at public venues. The bill proposes that offenders will face a fine of between 5,000 patacas and 50,000 patacas.
According to Chan, the bill also proposes that when the national anthem is performed and sung, those present shall stand and deport themselves respectfully, and must not disrespect the national anthem. The bill proposes that offenders will face a fine of between 2,000 patacas and 10,000 patacas, Chan said.
According to Chan, the bill also proposes amendments to Article 9 of the existing local Law No. 5/1999. The amendments propose that the act of deliberately altering the lyrics or the score of the national anthem, or performing or singing the national anthem in a deliberately distorted or derogatory manner at a public venue will constitute a blatant insult to a national symbol.
According to the bill, the punishment imposed on those who violate Article 9 will remain unchanged – a fine or imprisonment of up to three years.
According to Chan, the bill also proposes that the national anthem is to be included in secondary and primary education.
The bill proposes that secondary and primary schools shall teach their pupils to sing the national anthem, and educate them on the history and spiritual connotation of the national anthem and to obey the etiquette for performing and singing the national anthem, according to Chan. The bill does not propose any punishments concerning this rule.
According to Chan, the bill proposes that the local government may request news media outlets to assist the government in launching its promotion campaigns for the national anthem. The bill does not propose any punishments concerning this rule.
The bill proposes that the national anthem will have to be performed and sung at official occasions in Macau, Chan said.
A total of 27 lawmakers voted in favour of the bill. Non-establishment legislators Ng Kuok Cheong and Au Kam San voted against the bill, while non-establishment lawmakers Sulu Sou Ka Hou and Jose Maria Pereira Coutinho abstained. Lawmaker-cum-businessman Vitor Cheung Lup Kwan was absent during the vote. As is customary, the speaker of the 33-member legislature, Ho Iat Seng, did not vote.
After Monday’s vote, the bill will be reviewed in detail by one of the standing committees of the legislature before its second and final article-by-article vote by a plenary session after the two-month summer recess that begins tomorrow.