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Hong Kong student leader draws fury in China over anthem

AFP  |  Hong Kong 

A student leader has been declared an "enemy of the people" by Chinese for speaking out over a new law against disrespecting the national anthem, in what critics say is another attack on freedom of speech in the city.

The vilification of the 21-year-old comes as concern grows there is no longer room for open political debate in under pressure from

Alice Cheung, of the Federation of Students, was surrounded by security officers during a meeting at the city's last week seeking citizens' views on the controversial new law, which opponents say could pave the way for political prosecutions.

Cheung told the committee meeting she wanted "to vomit" every time she heard the national anthem. Hong Kong does not have its own anthem so China's is played to represent it at events.

"It is proof that this murderous regime still exists and holds power," she added.

Since then she has felt the full force of Chinese state and social media, which have labelled her an independence activist.

"My family are worried about me," she told "I feel under pressure".

The city is obliged to introduce its own version of the mainland's which was fine-tuned last year and upped punishment to three years' imprisonment.

Football fans have regularly booed and turned their backs when it is played to represent the Hong Kong team at matches.

After Cheung's original comments she was later told by the pro-committee that she could not speak again, but did so anyway saying others had been given more time to put their views forward.

She was surrounded by security and voluntarily left the room with the accusing her of causing "chaos".

Her comments were widely shared on the mainland. A on the website of said such acts must be met with a "resolute crackdown".

"The separatism advocated by the 'Hong Kong independence camp' is unpopular and they will certainly become the enemy of the Chinese people and the laughing stock of history," the article read.

Cheung told she had received dozens of hostile messages on in the last few days.

"A few randomly asked me: 'Do you know everyone in hates you?' Or, 'Do you know people in the mainland all want to attack you?' she recounted.

"(A public hearing) shouldn't be a high-pressure venue where after you've spoken you will be framed as the enemy of the people," she added.

Hong Kong's mini-constitution safeguards freedom of speech but the prosecution of pro-democracy activists and the barring of some from running for office has stoked fears those liberties are under threat.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Gary Fan, who was at the committee meeting and was also removed for shouting, told Monday the legislature's power to monitor the government was "being crippled".

The did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 14 2018. 17:00 IST