Hong Kong’s national anthem has convulsed the island nation, and this time within the legislature ~ theoretically the bedrock of democracy. Several pro-democracy lawmakers were dragged out of a Legislative Council session on Monday when the House witnessed rumbustous scenes over a bill that will criminalize any disrespect of the Chinese national anthem.

From the Umbrella movement on the streets in 2014, it is the legislature that has now been jolted by the robust struggle for democracy in the city-state, a Chinese protectorate and no less. The fact of the matter must be that such a crisis would not have arisen if Hong Kong was a democracy.

More basically, it is a purported democracy on China’s terms. The uproar began when pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por, who was appointed by the Council president last week to oversee the election of a new House committee leader, occupied the chairman’s seat and surrounded himself by more than 30 mask-clad security guards.

It is pretty obvious that China’s protege has been appointed as the Council’s president. The House committee, which decides when controversial bills, including the Chinese national anthem bill, will be voted on, has had to make do without a chairperson for several months.

China has accused pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong of filibustering to stall the bill until Council elections in September. The form of government or democracy has had its echo in the chambers of the House, and somewhat violently.

As pro-democracy lawmakers entered the chamber, they tried to reach the chairman’s seat but were greeted with force by the guards, resulting in a skirmish inside the House. At least one person was knocked to the ground. This is the second time within 10 days a Legislative Council session had plunged into chaos.

In a similar scenario on May 8, Lee, an incumbent, tried to seize control over the chairman’s seat by surrounding herself with security guards. Placards were thrown and pro-democracy lawmakers tried to rush to the bench before being dragged out of the chamber by guards.

The bone of contention this time is the national anthem. Hong Kong had officially adopted the Chinese national anthem ~ March of the Volunteers ~ in 1997 when the former British colony returned to Chinese control. But some of the island nation’s residents never accepted it as their own, often booing loudly at official functions.

The proposed legislation will criminalise such practices, which have become more frequent as tensions between the city and Beijing have strained. Those who insult the song could face steep fines or up to three years in jail. The tensions convulsing the legislature have arisen as the pro-democracy movement on the streets has shown signs of resurgence… ironically with the decline in coronavirus afflictions. The legislative protest has lent a new dimension to the upsurge.