HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong legislators are holding a debate on Wednesday over a bill that would require schools to teach China’s national anthem, organisations to play it and sing it, and anyone who disrespects it to face jail or fines.
The debate comes on the heels of Beijing’s proposal last week to directly impose national security legislation in the Chinese-ruled city, stoking global concerns over the prospect of a dramatic assertion of Chinese control on the city.
The security legislation could end freedom of speech and pave the way for mainland security agencies to set up branches in Hong Kong. It targets secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference - terms that are increasingly used by authorities to describe last year’s pro-democracy protests.
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Following is some comment on what people are saying about the latest developments in Hong Kong.
Chang, 29, clerk:
“Although you’re afraid inside your heart, you need to speak out. Otherwise you can’t speak out anymore. When I was born, I wasn’t supposed to be afraid.
“Our daily actions are now whether we need to buy a VPN (virtual private network), what to bring out because we’re afraid of stop and searches.”
“I wonder why they keep on going to work and going to school and pretending like nothing happened. I need to come out and stand in front of police and say I’m against you. I’m against the government forcing implementations of laws in Hong Kong.”
Allan, 56, property developer:
“We were caught by surprise. We never thought it (national security law) would be implemented in such a manner .... through the backdoor.
“We should take a step back and think about whether it will really affect our lives. But it’s a sensitive time.”
Edith Wong, office worker:
“The central government wants to tightly control the situation. There’s two sides. If there wasn’t such radical destruction in Hong Kong, then the government wouldn’t be doing this.
“There’s really two sides to it, it’s not just the central government that wants to force the law. It’s said that Hong Kong won’t change for 50 years, so I think there is a sense that the government has broken its commitment.”
Brian Shum, event manager:
“I think this is not what we would see in an open society. Because it makes things feel like a police state, with the supervision ... I think this is not what you think of an open society like Hong Kong.”
Ryan Tsang, hotel management:
“I’m scared. If they’re going to go through with it there’s nothing you can do, but if you know that’s the way it ends then you should voice out your opinion. We’ve said it before, if you don’t come out today, you’ll never be able to come out. This is legislation that directly affects us.”
Reporting by Pak Yiu and Sarah Wu; Compiled by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Stephen Coates