Hong Kong's Legislative Council has passed a bill that bans 'insulting' the Chinese national anthem. Photo: RTHK

On June 4, the Hong Kong Legislative Council passed the National Anthem Bill, which formalizes the singing of the Chinese national anthem at certain public events, including occasions commemorating the Chinese people’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression before and during World War II and the “National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims.” These are two important commemorations of historical events that must never be forgotten.  

We applaud the Hong Kong legislature for enacting this bill.   

The Chinese national anthem, known as the “March of the Volunteers,” inspired millions of Chinese to take up arms and defend their country against the Imperial Japanese Government during World War II.  

Millions of Chinese were tortured, murdered, and used as live human specimens for germ-warfare experiments during that period, including but not limited to the Nanjing Massacre, Unit 731, and the kidnap and rape of girls and women euphemistically called the “comfort women.”  

Hong Kong was also invaded and suffered greatly during the three years and eight months under occupation from 1941 to Japan’s surrender in 1945.

Japan forcefully deported hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents back to China, creating family separation. This resulted in a population shrinkage from 1.6 million pre-occupation to 600,000 by the end of the war. 

The Japanese military established “comfort women” stations in Hong Kong that officially sanctioned the rape of women and girls.  

Many in Hong Kong born and raised after World War II under the British colonial government may not be aware of this painful history of World War II, and hence the significance of the Chinese national anthem.  

 “A country without a memory is a country of madmen,” according to the late philosopher George Santayana, who is also known for the quote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We must never allow any foreign country to commit those kinds of atrocities again. The “March of the Volunteers” anthem will help teach this history to the people of Hong Kong. 

All countries, including US, sing their national anthems during public events. They instill pride and joy in their people and remembrance and celebration of their history. In the United States, we proudly sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  

In Hong Kong during British rule, we sang “God Save the Queen,” an anthem that made no sense to most people in the colony. We are proud that now Hong Kong has adopted the “March of the Volunteers,” a national anthem that makes a lot of sense and has real significance to its people.

Lillian Sing

Lillian Sing was the first Asian-American female judge in northern California. Now retired from the bench, she is a civil-rights activist who helped start Chinese for Affirmative Action and helped build the San Francisco Comfort Women Memorial. She serves as the co-chairwoman of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition.

Julie Tang

Julie Tang is a retired judge from San Francisco. She is a co-chairwoman of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, which built the San Francisco Comfort Women Memorial in 2017. In 2020, she co-founded Pivot to Peace, a national organization devoted to finding peaceful solutions to the US-China conflicts.