Hong Kong: Police officers secure LegCo amid second reading of National Anthem bill

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A group of heavily armed security officials were seen securing the premisses of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Wednesday to prevent protesters from occupying the building as the second reading of the National Anthem Bill was taking place.

Police vehicles and officials could be spotted around the government building where reportedly every single person entering it was checked to ensure safety. Some critical lawmakers were also see holding speeches inside the chamber, raising concerns about what the bill could mean for citizens in the semi-autonomous region.

While speaking to the press after the meeting, the Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung questioned Hong Kong’s ability to respect the national anthem and call on lawmakers to discuss the bill “rationally.”

“People in every country maintain a solemn attitude when singing their national anthem. Why can’t Hong Kong? ” Cheun said.

“I Hope that everyone can discuss it rationally and avoid violence, hope it can be passed in parliament. I also hope the public can treat it calmly and objectively, as long as you don’t insult the national anthem, nobody will be convicted,” he added.

The Legislative Council meeting took place as pro-democracy protesters were speaking out against a move to criminalise insulting China’s national anthem, which would become punishable by a fine of up to HK$50,000 (US$6,450, €5,870) and three years in jail.

Furthermore, thousands took to the street on Sunday to protest Beijing’s planned national security legislation, which would criminalise “splittism, subversion, terrorism, any behaviour that gravely threatens national security and foreign interference,” according to a draft issued by China’s legislature.

Last year, Hong Kong saw the largest protest movement in its history, which started with opposition to a now-scrapped plan to allow extradition to mainland China before evolving into an overall anti-government demonstration. The protests halted during the coronavirus lockdown but have picked up again as soon as the measures were relaxed.

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