Hong Kong's legislature passed a measure on Thursday outlawing disrespect of the Chinese national anthem on the 31st anniversary of Beijing's crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square.
The controversial bill passed with 41 lawmakers voting for it and one voting against it, according to multiple reports that noted most pro-democracy lawmakers boycotted the vote to protest the measure.
Pro-democracy lawmakers, some of whom tried to disrupt the vote, said the bill violated Hong Kong citizens’ freedom of expression that distinguish the semi-autonomous city from mainland China. They say the bill serves as the latest move by China to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, which had been filled with protests last year.
But supporters said the measure is needed to ensure Hong Kong citizens respect the anthem. Under the bill, violators could face up to three years in prison and up to $6,450 in a fine.
Pro-democracy lawmakers protesting the bill reminded others of the Tiananmen Square anniversary by standing in silence before debate and putting signs on their desks that read, “Do not forget June 4, the hearts of the people will not die,” according to The Associated Press.
One lawmaker, who held a sign that said, “A murderous regime stinks for ten thousand years," dropped a hidden pot with a pungent liquid and was removed from the chamber with another lawmaker who accompanied him, according to the news outlet.
The chamber had been evacuated before the meeting resumed, leading the president of Hong Kong’s legislature, Andrew Leung, to shorten the debate, which critics say allowed the bill to pass.
Last week, the legislature also approved a national security law for the city to allow Chinese security agents to be posted within Hong Kong.