National Flag and National Emblem (Amendment) Bill 2021 (2021/09/29)

National Flag and National Emblem (Amendment) Bill 2021 (2021/09/29)

MR YIU SI-WING (in Cantonese):

Deputy President, I speak in support of the National Flag and National Emblem (Amendment) Bill 2021 ("the Bill"). The Bill was introduced in light of the amendments to the Law of the People's Republic of China on the National Flag ("the National Flag Law") and Law of the People's Republic of China on the National Emblem ("the National Emblem Law") endorsed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in October 2020. Given that the National Flag Law and National Emblem Law have been listed in Annex III to the Basic Law, and the SAR Government has the constitutional responsibility under the Basic Law to apply the national laws listed therein locally by way of legislation, the Bill was introduced to satisfy the requirements under national laws.


The national flag and national emblem are the symbols and signs which represent the dignity of the country, and they should be respected by the people. This is a politically sensible requirement that every country will impose, with the only difference being the extent of the requirement. It was not uncommon to notice acts of mutilating the national flag and national emblem during some anti-government demonstrations in the past, as well as the "black-clad violence" incidents in the movement of opposition to the proposed legislative amendments in 2019. What is most outrageous is that on 21 July 2019, some protestors went so far as to deface the national emblem hung in the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in HKSAR, and this amounted to a naked challenge to the limits of toleration for the Central Authorities and the SAR Government, as well as a serious insult to the dignity of the country. It can thus be seen that there is indeed the need to amend the National Flag Law and National Emblem Law.


Deputy President, the imposition of penalties can only address the problem concerning illegal acts, and many people still refer to different grey areas or scenarios to seek explanation from the Government on whether they would constitute violation of the law. When determining whether certain acts, be they done intentionally or not, constitute violation of the law, the crux lies in whether they are done by the persons concerned with an attitude of respect for their country, and respect for others and for all things is in fact an attitude we should all uphold. Hence, the enactment of legislation is only one of the steps that we should take, while a more important step in the next stage is to take fundamental actions by instilling a sense of national identity in students, promoting to different extents their understanding of the development of our country in such areas as history, culture, economy and political system, requiring students to have knowledge of the national flag, national anthem and national emblem of our country, and providing guidance to young people for learning to respect and developing a correct sense of value. These actions should become a part of our moral, civic and national education, and they can at the same time prevent students from being misled due to youthful ignorance, thus breaking the law and ruining their future.


There will be much work for the Government to follow up upon passage of the Bill, including first of all providing appropriate outlines for teaching materials for primary and secondary schools, and the provision of appropriate training for teachers. The objective of doing so is to foster a correct understanding of the relevant knowledge and the use of lively teaching methods and techniques, thereby making things easy for students to comprehend and remember. In this connection, the Education Bureau should proceed with the preparation work for providing training for teachers.


During deliberation by the Bills Committee formed to study the Bill, I have asked whether the authorities had prescribed a set of standardized guidelines for teacher training, which would serve as a reference basis for teaching the subject with a view to avoiding disseminating wrong information to students due to misunderstanding on the part of teachers themselves; and whether teachers teaching the subject would be required mandatorily to attend training courses organized by the Education Bureau. The Administration replied that a set of standardized requirements was currently not in place for teacher training, candidates attending training courses would be nominated by schools on their own, and it would enhance efforts in this regard in the future when necessary. I am of the view that as far as teachers of the national education subject are concerned, the Government's requirements and training are obviously inadequate. The Education Bureau does have the responsibility to design a set of standardized outlines for providing training and guidance for teachers, require teachers teaching the subject to attend a specified number of hours of training, and organize delegations and exchange tours to the Mainland, so that the teachers concerned can have a more comprehensive understanding of our Motherland and a more correct perception towards the national flag and national emblem.


Secondly, civic education should be strengthened to provide guidance to organizations and the public on the correct use of the national flag and national emblem. The Bill has prescribed detailed requirements for the use of the national flag and national emblem, but some provisions are relatively difficult for the general public to understand and interpret. As a matter of fact, there were previous cases in which government departments as well as some public and private organizations had had the regional flag printed wrongly, and there were also frequent cases of flying the national flag and regional flag incorrectly. I suggest that the SAR Government should develop a visual-based and easy-to-use guide book for this purpose.


For example, all Members of the Legislative Council are provided with an information kit on the font style, colour code, size, scope and standards of application of the logo of the Legislative Council, and together with a template file of the logo, they are all equipped with the correct information for printing publicity materials. Some large organizations have also prepared similar brand identity manuals for implementation by their subsidiary companies. The SAR Government should make reference to such an approach and formulate a set of standard guidelines on the use of the national flag, national emblem and national anthem as well as the regional flag and regional emblem, which would provide guidance for various organizations and members of the public to follow. In the meantime, efforts should be made from time to time to publicize through different media the requirements on the use of the national flag and national emblem, so that no one will inadvertently break the law.


Finally, I would like to say a few words about law enforcement. I have expressed concern at meetings of the Bills Committee that apart from incorrect use of the national flag and national emblem by members of the public, it was also my worry that as the guidelines on the surrounding environment for using the national flag and national emblem were unclear, people with ulterior motives might take advantage of the surrounding environment to undermine the national dignity with the use of some other slogans. The Secretary responded then that the Chief Executive might specify by stipulations the occasions on which and places at which the display of the national flag and national emblem would be allowed, and it would be an offence under the proposed provisions for making any insulting remarks publicly and deliberately. It is my hope that after the passage of the Bill, the Government will formulate a set of new guidelines that provide greater clarity after a period of assessment and examination to avoid disputes.


Besides, when asked for the law enforcement plans in place in Hong Kong to contain the damage caused by the negative impact brought about by acts or messages which defile the national flag and national emblem in overseas websites, the Secretary has responded that a mutual system would be set up with other jurisdictions to assist in law enforcement. However, in similar circumstances, it still requires initiatives by the departments concerned to collect evidence and make requests for legal assistance. I hope the Government would establish a standing and effective mechanism for evidence collection, thus enabling the relevant legislation to achieve the greatest effectiveness in order to protect national dignity.


Deputy President, I so submit.