Nov. 4 (UPI) -- China's top legislature on Saturday applied a law governing conduct during its national anthem in Hong Kong and Macau, punishing those "gravely disrespecting" the song.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress inserted the law into Hong Kong's mini-constitution and added additional violations to the National Anthem Law, which was adopted in September.
Punishments for desecrating the flag in public now also apply to serious acts of public disrespect to the national anthem. People who modify the lyrics, or play or sing the national anthem in "a distorted or disrespectful way in public" can be imprisoned for three years under the criminal code.
The "March of the Volunteers," which encouraged Chinese soldiers and civilians against Japan from 1937-45, was adopted as a national anthem in 1949.
"In recent years, incidents of disrespect against the national anthem have occurred in Hong Kong, challenging the bottom line of the principle of one country, two systems and social morality, and triggering rage among Chinese including most Hong Kong residents," said Zhang Rongshun, deputy director for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee in a report by the South China Morning Post. "It is urgent and important to apply the national anthem law in Hong Kong in a bid to prevent and handle such offences."
That has included Hong Kong soccer fans booing during the anthem.
Hong Kong has maintained a separate legal system from mainland China since the handover of sovereignty from Britain in 1997.
Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the Standing Committee, said the "time of its implementation will depend on the opposition camp's filibustering."
Hong Kong's government issued a statement that it would adopt the measure "by way of appropriate local legislation" consistent with the city's constitution.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who is Hong Kong's No. 2 official, on Saturday said the government would consider the views of local lawmakers and the public.
"When the law takes effect, people will have to stand up and show respect when the anthem is played. That's for sure," Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong deputy to the NPC and a member of the Executive Council that advises the city's leader on policy, said Saturday on a radio show. "Someone asked me whether people who are walking will have to stop. Yes, just stop."