Sports fans in China who disrespect their country’s national anthem could face criminal charges, according to state news agency Xinhua on Monday.
Chinese lawmakers submitted a draft amendment to the country’s Criminal Law for deliberation at a session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Monday. Violators could face up to three years in prison, according to the draft.
Chinese parliament passed a new law in September mandating up to 15 days in police detention for those who mock the “March of the Volunteers,” which is China’s national anthem. The law also covers the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, Reuters reported.
The report comes at a time when American football players and others in the U.S. are deciding to “take a knee” while the national anthem is played pre-game. Some see the protests as disrespecting the flag, while others say the players are exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
President Trump called on the football players to be fired or banned.
In Hong Kong, soccer fans are the ones protesting China’s national anthem. They began loudly booing the anthem during a World Cup qualifier in 2015, which prompted FIFA to fine Hong Kong’s football association.
“The National Anthem Law is among laws relating to defense, foreign affairs and other matters outside the limits of the autonomy of the two SARs,” according to Zhang Rongshun, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.
“The NPC Standing Committee consulted the two committees and two SAR governments, all of which agreed that it is in line with the Basic Laws and appropriate to add the National Anthem Law to the Annex III,” he said. “To safeguard the authority of the national anthem – one of the national symbols – is to safeguard the authority of the state, the people and the Chinese nation.”
“In recent years, incidents of disrespecting the national anthem had 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,” Zhang said. “It is urgent and important to apply the National Anthem Law in Hong Kong, in a bid to prevent and handle such offences.”