Over the past week, US President Donald Trump has launched a personal crusade against some NFL players kneeling during the playing of the US national anthem, charging the players, who are protesting against institutional racism and police violence, with disrespecting their country and the troops charged with keeping it safe.
At the same time, on the other end of the Pacific, the Chinese government is also especially concerned with how people treat their national anthem with a new law concerning the anthem taking effect on Sunday, the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
The US national anthem code, which has remained unchanged since being instituted in 1942, states that during a rendition of the national anthem with the flag displayed, individuals in uniform should stand and give a military salute while everyone else should “face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart.” However, the code is never enforced and there are no punishments for breaching it.
In contrast, the new Chinese law on anthem etiquette is wide-ranging and those who dare to disregard it could face jail time and criminal charges. Eat your heart out, Trump.
The new piece of legislation, which was formally introduced in early September, aims to protect “the dignity of the national anthem” and help “promote patriotism and nurture socialist core values.” It states that the playing of the national anthem is permissible during formal political gatherings, as well as at major celebrations, awards ceremonies and sporting events. It is not, however, allowed to be played during funerals, as background music in public or in commercials. Those listening to the anthem should stand at attention and deport themselves respectfully.
According to the new law, anyone who breaks these rules can be detained for up to 15 days with possible criminal charges filed against them. You can also be punished for playing or singing the anthem in a distorted or disrespectful way, or for modifying the anthem’s lyrics to make a parody.
The new law does not yet apply to Macau and Hong Kong, but could be made to by the end of the month, something that has already raised some concerned from the latter special administrative region whose residents are becoming concerned about Beijing encroaching on their degree of autonomy. During China-Hong Kong football matches in the city, HK fans have been known to boo while the “March of the Volunteers” is played.
While this new law may sound like something Trump would like to see instituted in the US, he would not agree with the opinions of all Chinese legislators on proper anthem etiquette. Back in June, one NPC delegate proposed a resolution that would ban placing a hand over the heart during China’s national anthem, arguing that the gesture was an American tradition that has no place in China.
“We should follow Chinese manners and Chinese rules,” the delegate said, proposing to add a clause to the draft law which would ban any gestures “foreign, religious or self-made” during the anthem. His resolution was not picked up.
[Editor’s note: 10/03]: This post has been updated to provide a clearer and more precise summary of the new national anthem law. You can read the whole law translated into English by NPC Observer here.
By Máté Mohos
[Images via Global Times / NetEase]
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