It is now illegal to play the Chinese national anthem at funerals
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It is now illegal to play the Chinese national anthem at funerals

STARTING on Sunday, China implemented a new, wide-ranging law which dictates the national anthem must be played at a range of formal gatherings and bans its “malicious” or wrongful use, including at funerals.

The new law on the anthem came into effect on China’s National Day celebrated on October 1, dictating that it should be sung at political gatherings such as the communist party’s National People’s Congress, major national celebrations, sporting events and “other suitable occasions.”

Importantly, it is now illegal to use “March of the Volunteers” during funerals, “inappropriate” private occasions, as background music in public places, or for advertising purposes, reported the state news outlet Global Times.

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A new giant portrait of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong is placed at the Tiananmen Gate as the old one (L) is moved, ahead of China’s National Day,in Beijing, China, early September 28, 2017. Source: Reuters

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Those who “maliciously” modify the lyrics of the anthem or play it in a “distorted or disrespectful way” can be held without charge for more than two weeks and held criminally liable.

The law on the anthem – which contains lyrics like “with our flesh and blood, let us build a new Great Wall!” – comes amid an upshot in Chinese nationalism and tensions between Beijing and pro-democracy advocates in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

It has been controversial in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong, where Beijing has increasingly sought to assert its influence. According to the Global Times, the anthem has previously been used “inappropriately” before a law was drafted.

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Students attend a tribute ceremony in front of the Monument to the People’s Heroes at Tiananmen Square, ahead of National Day marking the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, China, September 30, 2017. Source: Reuters/Jason Lee

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Hong Kong musicians reacted strongly to the law, which in time will be implemented in the ex-British colony. Adrian Chow Pok-yin of the Arts Development Council raising concerns about its implications for creative freedom.

The law is “without a clear definition and a mechanism to enforce the judgment, composers may choose to stay away from it,” he said as quoted by Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post.

“Whether this precedent will be the first of more similar laws to come is also a cause for concern,” said Hong Kong composer Alfred Wong Hok-yeung.

China already imposes legislation regarding the use of its national symbols and flag.