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Hong Kong democracy activist found guilty; Disrespect the national anthem and go to jail
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 31, 2017

In China, disrespecting national anthem could mean three years in jail
Beijing (AFP) Oct 31, 2017 - Disrespecting China's national anthem could carry a prison sentence of up to three years under a new draft law amendment, state media reported Tuesday.

China has been fine-tuning legislation on the proper way and place to sing its national anthem, recently tightening rules that already bar people from belting it out at parties, weddings and funerals.

The country passed a National Anthem Law in September, which specified a much lesser jail term of 15 days for disrespecting the song.

Under the new measures "punishment ranges from removal of political rights and public surveillance to criminal detention and imprisonment of up to three years", said the Xinhua state news agency.

China's top legislature was deliberating the new measures -- which would be part of the country's criminal law -- this week, it added, without explaining why the penalty could increase so significantly.

Amnesty International China researcher William Nee told AFP the move "would clearly be out of step with international law".

"Freedom of expression includes ideas and speech that some may find offensive," he said.

"Whether it is supposedly showing disrespect to kings, flags or national anthems, these types of speech should be protected -- not criminalised."

An ideological push has intensified in China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012. The leader has stressed infusing every aspect of Chinese education with "patriotic spirit".

Before Xi, China already had laws covering the use of its national flag and national emblem but none for its anthem, "March of the Volunteers", aside from a ban on its use in advertisements.

Regulations adopted in 2014 allowed the national anthem to be played only during formal diplomatic occasions, major sporting events and international gatherings -- making the song off-limits at weddings, funerals and various forms of "private entertainment".

Hong Kong democracy activist Avery Ng was Tuesday found guilty of assault for throwing a sandwich towards the city's then-leader which hit a police officer.

Ng, 40, chairman of political party the League of Social Democrats, was sentenced to three weeks in jail but released on bail pending an appeal.

It was the latest in a series of cases against democracy activists which have led to accusations of interference in the judiciary as Beijing tightens its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

Judge So Wai-tak said the sentence was a "deterrent" against what he described as "violent means" used in protests against government policies, although he acknowledged the fact that the weapon was a sandwich merited a shorter jail term.

Afterwards Ng told reporters he believed the judicial system was being used by the city's Beijing-backed government.

"Only in such a ridiculous place as the current Hong Kong will you see a sentence of three weeks," he said.

Ng told the court he had thrown what he described as a "smelly fish sandwich" at Hong Kong's unpopular then-chief executive Leung Chun-ying as he was on his way to vote in the September 2016 legislative election.

He said the sandwich was a protest prop to show that the poor in Hong Kong may not be able to afford even a simple breakfast. It illustrated the pro-democracy camp's demand for a universal retirement protection plan.

Ng added that he had wanted to hand the sandwich to Leung but when he was blocked by police he threw it instead.

Leung, in office from 2012 until July this year, was accused by opponents of overseeing the erosion of Hong Kong's freedoms.

The former leader had told Ng's trial he felt "panic" at the time of the sandwich throwing.

It followed an incident in 2014 where an anti-China lawmaker threw a glass at Leung in the legislature.

The glass did not hit him but the lawmaker was convicted of assault and jailed for two weeks.

Some online commenters poured scorn on what they saw as a surprisingly harsh sentence Tuesday.

"Even treating Leung Chun-ying to a sandwich is a crime?" questioned one Facebook user.

Umbrella Movement leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were jailed in August over their roles in the mass 2014 pro-democracy rallies after the government successfully sought to overturn previous non-custodial sentences passed by a lower court.

Chinese court orders would-be divorcees to 'cool off'
Beijing (AFP) Oct 26, 2017
Clashing couples in one part of China will now have to "cool off" for three months before they can legally call time on their union. Court officials said husbands and wives are too readily seeking a final dissolution when they should be working through their disagreements, and have ordered would-be divorcees to take time out. Anyone looking to annul their marriage in court in one part of ... read more

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