A man has been sentenced to three months in prison in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Thursday for replacing the national anthem with a song associated with the 2019 Hong Kong riots in a video showing a Hong Kong athlete celebrating his victory at the Tokyo Olympics.
As the first person tried under the National Anthem Ordinance that was passed in 2020, the 27-year-old photographer Cheng Wing-chun was earlier this month found guilty of openly and deliberately insulting the anthem at the Eastern Magistrates' Court.
Magistrate Minnie Wat said Cheng lacked remorse, noting that although Cheng claimed he didn't know the meaning behind the song, he had worked for a political party and participated in protests and rallies in 2019, which made his claim unconvincing.
This case has built up a precedent of case law and may constitute a solid reference for elements of conduct and intention for verdicts and sentences in subsequent offenses, Chu Kar-kin, a veteran current affairs commentator based in HKSAR and member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday.
In 2021, Cheng replaced China's national anthem "March of the Volunteers" with "Glory to Hong Kong," a song linked to the 2019 anti-government riots and has been used to instigate seditious activities, in a video clip of the Hong Kong foil fencer Cheung Ka-long receiving a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Cheng posted the footage to YouTube which has gained more than 90,000 views and several comments.
Wat said the comments reflected the far-reaching impact of the video, which was not only disrespectful to the athletes, but also triggered conflicts among people with different opinions and might lead to more similar insulting behaviors.
Wat said a deterrent sentence was needed as the national anthem and the national flag symbolize the country and national sovereignty, representing national dignity, unity and territorial integrity.
In June, Hong Kong's Department of Justice applied to the Court for a court injunction to ban unlawful acts relating to "Glory to Hong Kong," such as broadcasting the song with a seditious intention, after the song has been repeatedly mistakenly presented as the "National Anthem of Hong Kong" (instead of the correct one "March of the Volunteers").
In June 2020, the National Anthem Ordinance came into effect in Hong Kong to promote respect for the national anthem. The law prohibits and imposes penalties on the misuse of the national anthem and public acts with an intent to insult the national anthem, with up to three years imprisonment or fines of up to HK$50,000 (roughly $ 6,400).
"The national anthem symbolizes the image and sign of our nation and the National Anthem Ordinance serves the purpose to preserve the dignity of it. Any person who insults the national anthem commits an offense and once convicted will be punished by the law," said Chu, adding that the HKSAR Government should promote the national anthem education.