CAMBRIDGE, England (AP) — Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has described as almost “medieval” a new law in Hong Kong that criminalizes disrespecting China’s national anthem.
Hong Kong’s legislature approved a contentious bill Thursday that makes it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem. Those found guilty of intentionally abusing the “March of the Volunteers” face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 50,000 Hong Kong dollars ($6,450).
“It’s almost like a medieval law,” Ai said Friday in an interview with the Associated Press in Cambridge, England. “You know, you have to be brainwashed and then you have no chance to express your own feelings or to make your own choice.”
Ai also criticized a separate national security law that China’s ceremonial legislature has approved for Hong Kong, saying the move — which circumvented the semi-autonomous territory’s own legislature — augurs the end for the city.
“China will establish its own so-called national security law, which will be (the) end of Hong Kong and will finish Hong Kong as a free, autonomous, independent system,” said the artist.
Ai joins other critics around the world who have expressed worry over Beijing’s tightening grip over Hong Kong, which is governed under a “One Country, Two Systems” framework that guaranteed it a high degree of autonomy and civil rights when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Beijing’s national security law, which is set to outlaw acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in the city, follows many months of often-violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Ai was arrested at Beijing’s airport in April 2011 and held for 81 days without explanation during a wider crackdown on dissent that coincided with the international ferment of the Arab Spring.
Commenting on protests around the globe following the death of George Floyd, Ai praised the protesters and said it reflected deep political problems around the world.
“People always want to say: ‘Okay, that’s just a race problem, it’s Black Lives Matter.’ I don’t think so, I think this is much deeper, reflects a much broader political problem and the people will react from all directions when they are not satisfied with this condition,” he said.