Soldiers participate in a flag-raising ceremony at a naval base in Hong Kong. Among other things, the new law requires schools to display the Chinese flag, hold flag-raising ceremonies each week and teach students about the flag's history. File Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA
Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Lawmakers in Hong Kong passed a bill on Wednesday that bars the desecration of the Chinese national flag on the Internet, and says those who break the law can be sent to prison for as many as three years.
The territory's Legislative Council passed the amendment to an existing law that seeks to protect the Chinese flag and national emblem.
The change seeks to "preserve the dignity" of the national flag and increase Hong Kong's sense of national identity.
Under the change, people in Hong Kong are barred from "insulting" the flag and emblem both online and in person. It also prohibits displaying them upside down and says neither can be publicly desecrated by burning, mutilating, defiling or trampling.
The change to the law is partially a result of anti-government protests in 2019, during which demonstrators openly trampled and burned the Chinese flag. China has governed Hong Kong since it was relinquished from British control in 1997.
The bill also requires schools to display the flag, hold flag-raising ceremonies each week and teach students about the flag's history.
"[The Education Bureau] should do more school visits, and keep a close eye on how schools teach about the national flag and emblem," Business and Professionals Alliance legislator Christopher Cheung told RTHK. "The bureau should ask schools which are not following its instructions to correct their practice and punish them accordingly."
Violators of the new law face a fine of up to $6,500 and can be sentenced to as many as three years in prison.