The government has confirmed that the controversial National Anthem Bill will top the list of 10 government bills tabled to the full Legislative Council on May 27.
The planned legislation would ban "insults" against the national anthem. According to the bill, anyone found guilty of misusing or insulting the March of the Volunteers would face a fine of up to HK$50,000 and three years in prison.
In a letter to lawmakers, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said that the bill should be given priority, as it will expire if it isn't passed by the summer recess in July.
The letter was distributed to lawmakers, but addressed to DAB chairwoman Starry Lee, who controversially presided over the House Committee on Friday after lawmakers from both sides fought for control over the committee.
Lee was the chairwoman of the committee last year and it is yet to elect a new chair after six months.
Opposition lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who was the vice chair last year, was conducting meetings until Friday afternoon. But the pro-government side accuse him of delaying the election and holding up bills.
The pan-democrats have said last Friday afternoon's meeting was illegal and they will continue to contest Lee's takeover of the proceedings, both inside and outside Legco.
Earlier on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the administration had asked Lee to give priority to the bill, saying it's been delayed for a long time.
"The chief secretary and relevant principal officials have already written to the House Committee chairwoman Starry Lee to consult her – this is required under the rules of procedure – to consult her on the resumption of the second reading of this bill in the Legislative Council," said Lam.
Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan, who is the convenor of the pro-democracy camp, questioned what is so urgent about the national anthem law.
Chan said now is not the time to discuss such a contentious issue and she urged the government to rethink its move to push the bill through.