Flag & anthem law | Gov’t to adopt milder definition of disrespect

Following amendments suggested by the 1st Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly, the government’s new flag, emblem and anthem bill will drop proposed penalties for mild forms of disrespect toward the national anthem, including for those who fail to stand or lose their composure during its rendition.

The Standing Committee was yesterday discussing an amendment to the law on the national flag, emblem and anthem, which would build on provisions already in place in Macau, including those under Annex III of Macau’s Basic Law, “National Laws to Be Applied in the Macao Special Administrative Region”.

The latest bill is in response to China’s National Anthem Law, approved by the Central Government late last year, which requires an update to laws of the Special Administrative Regions of Macau and Hong Kong.

After discussing what type of behavior should warrant a fine from Macau authorities, the group of lawmakers in the 1st Standing Committee led by Ho Ion Sang has settled on only severe and deliberate acts of disrespect.

Intentionally changing the lyrics or music of the anthem in a public place will constitute an offence, as will other forms of obvious disrespect. Fines may also be applied when national symbols are used for commercial purposes or for “undue ends,” such as private funerals, or when the national flag is deliberately altered, damaged, stepped on or set alight.

The penalties, still under discussion, may include a maximum three-year prison sentence or a 360-day fine.

Previously, the bill had proposed harsher penalties for a wider range of behaviors. It had also required those present to stand in respect while the national anthem was played, but this raised objections from lawmakers who considered it unfair to apply to people with physical disabilities.

This bill will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly next year for further consideration. DB

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