Cheung Sin Ying, a 21-year-old student from Hong Kong, has been attacked as "an enemy of the people" by Chinese state media after expressing feelings of utter disgust towards Beijing's national anthem
"I want to vomit whenever I hear the national anthem," Ms Cheung said at a public hearing session at Hong Kong's legislative council over the weekend.
Hong Kong's legislative body was reportedly asking citizens for their views in the process of drafting a Chinese National Anthem Law which observers say is intended to make it an offence to show disrespect for the Chinese national anthem.
"Every time the national anthem is played, it is proof that this regime that kills people still exist and holds power," Ms Cheung, who serves as the chairperson of Hong Kong Federation of Students, said at the hearing.
Maxine Yao, another citizen at the hearing, quickly snapped at Ms Cheung — who was escorted out — and said: "I advise you to leave Hong Kong as soon as possible."
"Then you won't have to put up with the national anthem anymore, or use protesting as a tool to mess Hong Kong up!"
Footage of the exchange went viral on Chinese traditional and social media, where Ms Cheung was labelled as "Hong Kong separatist" and became the subject of harsh criticism and personal attacks.
An editorial from China's national broadcaster CCTV said Ms Cheung had "damaged national security" and will become "the enemy of the Chinese people" and "a joke in history".
'Beijing is eroding Hong Kong's rule of law'
Hong Kong is obliged to draw up a local version of the mainland's National Anthem Law, which was inserted into the Basic Law — the region's constitutional document — by Beijing last November after Hong Kong football fans were seen booing the anthem at international matches.
Legal experts say the local version is aimed to penalise conducts that are disrespectful or insulting to the Chinese national anthem, and will require schools to teach children to sing the song.
Under the "one country, two systems" arrangement, Hong Kong has set itself apart from mainland China by retaining a relatively antonymous and democratic system, but many say Beijing is accelerating its efforts to change that.
"I think my feeling of disliking the national anthem is quite common among young people," Ms Cheung told the ABC.
She said the next step for the Hong Kong Federation of Students was to opt for "civil disobedience" by deliberately breaking the law to show resistance.
Professor Willy Wo-Lap Lam, adjunct professor at the China Studies Centre of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, agreed many Hong Kong citizens — especially the young generation — were increasingly discontent with the Chinese Government since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.
However, since pro-democracy legislators are outnumbered in Hong Kong's legislative council by pro-Beijing legislators, Professor Lam says there is a 100 per cent chance the National Anthem Law will be passed.
"Beijing is eroding Hong Kong's rule of law by inserting laws and through Hong Kong's prosecution system," Professor Lam said, "but the rule of law is Hong Kong's most fundamental value."
Professor Lam added that introducing the anthem law was only one of the many recent attempts by Beijing to assert China's version of "political correctness" outside mainland China.
'We feel our rights are being violated'
According to the mainland version of the law, people who gravely insult the anthem in public can be sentenced for up to three years in jail.
"My generation grew up in an environment where there is freedom, there is human rights, as well as civil rights," Ms Cheung told the ABC.
"So when we see the ruling Communist Party meddling in Hong Kong affairs step by step and trying to rule this place with authoritarianism, we feel our rights are being violated."
But while Ms Cheung and other young activists might be causing a stir, Professor Bing Ling, a legal scholar at the University of Sydney who taught in Hong Kong for two decades, told the ABC that he was disappointed by how "the pro-democracy groups seem to have been picking on trivial issues to provoke China with things like the national anthem."
"In the past few years, especially after the Umbrella Movement and Occupy Central, the localist sentiments especially among young people have been on the rise," Professor Ling said.
"It is in these circumstances that the national anthem law is being introduced and became a point of offence."