Let's not play footloose with anthem

Editorial | Nov 8, 2017
Hong Kong will face Bahrain in a friendly tomorrow, then take on Lebanon in the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup qualifying match on Tuesday.

Adrenaline levels are at an all-time high.

People aren't asking whether the SAR team will play well as the host, but rather if local fans will again show disrespect by booing or turning their backs when The March of the Volunteers is played before the start of the games.

Hopefully, they won't, but who can say for sure?

The Asian Football Confederation has issued a severe warning to the Hong Kong Football Association, pointing out the consequences will be serious if our fans ever repeat the offense when the national anthem is played.

During the match against Malaysia last month, a number of fans jeered during the anthem.

It's entirely possible for the AFC to order future matches be staged behind closed doors, or write off the SAR team from future play altogether.

These might seem to be the worst- case scenario possible, but it would be extremely naive to think so. Politically, it could be far worse than imagined.

Repetition of disrespect will weaken the case of political doves, who have been arguing within the establishment for a relatively liberal approach towards legislating to give local effect to the mainland's national anthem law that was recently included in Annex III of the Basic Law.

Now, we all know youths are rebellious by nature - the greater the pressure, the stronger their reaction - and they can be readily incited by incendiary comments on divisive issues like independence, although it's plain that independence for Hong Kong doesn't appeal at all to the general public.

However, this youthful zealousness is an Achilles' heel that opportunists from the right to the left are eager to exploit for political gain. The vicious cycle that has thrown the SAR into mayhem for the past five years has to be broken for good.

So football fans would be extremely ill-advised to boo the national anthem at the upcoming matches.

One, it's improper to disrespect the anthem in the first place, and two, it's bound to strengthen the case of hardliners to press for a tough version of the law to jail offenders for a long time.

While it's reassuring to hear Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet- ngor saying it's unlikely for the anthem law to be made retroactive - in the spirit of the common law system practiced here - her call for headstrong fans not to take advantage of the gap is well- founded, and must be taken seriously.

Hong Kong isn't the only place to have a national anthem law, and observing it is a matter of common sense.

Should restaurant patrons stop slurping their wonton soup and stand up to sing along when the national anthem is broadcast on television inside the eatery?

Should pedestrians passing by an electronics store freeze and stand upright when hearing the anthem played on the TV sets in the display window?

These so-called concerns raised by pan-democrats are much ado about nothing.

Let common sense prevail.

Search Archive

Advanced Search
December 2018