China’s legislature is considering a bill mandating prison sentences of up to three years for disrespecting the national anthem, amid rising nationalist appeals from the ruling Communist Party under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.
The move reported on Tuesday by state media follows Xi’s appointment to a second five-year term as party leader, for which he has designated as a central motif of realizing the “Chinese Dream” of a powerful, prosperous nation.
The original draft legislation proposed in August called for 15 days in jail for infractions such as playing the anthem on occasions deemed improper, including funerals, or for changing its wording or presenting it in a disrespectful manner.
Settings at which the anthem can be played include political gatherings, award ceremonies, flag-raising ceremonies, important diplomatic occasions and major sport events.
The modified bill was submitted to the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, which began its bi-monthly meeting on Monday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The anthem, “March of the Volunteers,” has occasionally been a political flashpoint in Hong Kong, where tension is rising over mainland China’s growing influence
Football fans in the Chinese semi-autonomous region have booed the anthem when it’s played at games between the home team and teams from China or other countries, leading to fines from FIFA, the sport’s governing body. Pro-democracy activists and lawmakers fear a national anthem law could be used to undermine freedom of speech in Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system from the mainland.