A Hong Kong court Thursday sentenced citizen journalist Paula Leung to three months in prison – the first conviction under the National Anthem Ordinance of the People’s Republic of China in Hong Kong. The act, passed in China on September 1, 2017, was news outlets, Leung attended a mall screening of Olympic fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long receiving his gold medal on July 30, 2021. During the Chinese national anthem, attendees waved the colonial Hong Kong flag in direct violation of Articles 7 and 12 of the law. Article 7 reads, “while the national anthem is performed or sung, those present shall stand and deport themselves respectfully.” Article 12 specifically calls on news media to actively publicize and popularize the etiquette regarding the anthem.
Since the act was passed, civil liberties and political freedoms have been imperiled. Reports allege that freedom of the press is nearly eradicated in Hong Kong, and US government officials have joined calls for Hong Kong to cease the targeting of free and independent journalists. Amnesty International and other rights organizations condemned the National Anthem Ordinance specifically, calling the bill “an ominous sign for the future of human rights in Hong Kong.” According to nonprofit Freedom House, Hong Kong’s political rights score has dropped from 40 to 25, its civil liberties score has dropped from 81.6 to 55 and its overall freedom score has dropped from 55 to 43 since 2020.