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Xi Jinping

China may mandate prison sentences for disrespecting its national anthem

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China’s legislature is considering a bill mandating prison sentences of up to three years for disrespecting its national anthem.

The original draft legislation suggested in August called for 15 days in jail for infractions such as playing China’s anthem on occasions deemed improper.

Improper moments included funerals, according to the first draft, and it also prohibited changing the song’s wording or presenting it in a disrespectful fashion.

Settings at which “March of the Volunteers” can be played included political gatherings, award ceremonies, flag-raising ceremonies, key diplomatic moments and major sporting events.

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China’s Xinhua News Agency on Monday reported that a modified version of the bill was submitted to the standing committee of the National People’s Congress.

The congress began its bi-monthly meeting on Monday, after Chinese President Xi Jinping was appointed to a second five-year term as leader of the ruling Communist Party.

Xi has designated realizing the “Chinese Dream” of a powerful, prosperous nation as a central theme of his latest term.

The Chinese leader has made a stronger military, bolder foreign policy and rapid economic expansion overseas significant benchmarks of his tenure since taking office in 2012.

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Xi has also made sharply reducing the space available to criticism or political dissent in China major factors of his leadership.

“March of the Volunteers” has at times become a point of contention in China’s semiautonomous region of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong soccer fans have booed the anthem at games between the home team and teams from China or other nations.

The incidents have led to fines from the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which is soccer’s global governing body.

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Hong Kong maintains a separate legal system from mainland China, leading to some concerns about enforcing a national anthem law there.

Pro-democracy activists and lawmakers fear that such a measure could help stifle free speech in Hong Kong.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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