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Published: 12:11, November 17, 2022 | Updated: 09:41, November 18, 2022
Broadcast of insurrectionists’ song at rugby tournament can’t be an accident
By Tony Kwok
Published:12:11, November 17, 2022 Updated:09:41, November 18, 2022 By Tony Kwok

In the final match of the second leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series between Hong Kong and the host, South Korea, held in Incheon, South Korea, on Sunday, Nov 13, it boggled the mind to hear the instrumental version of the Hong Kong 2019 insurrectionists’ protest song being broadcast instead of China’s national anthem for Hong Kong’s team at the start of the match.

Quite rightly, this outrageous mistake triggered an immediate protest from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, demanding a full apology and a thorough investigation. A government spokesman said the government “strongly deplores and opposes the playing of a song closely associated with violent protests and the ‘independence’ movement in 2019”. The spokesman added: “The national anthem is a symbol of our country. The organizer of the tournament has a duty to ensure that the national anthem receives the respect it warranted.”

The South Korean tournament organizer also made a public announcement conveying its regret for the mistake and said that it subsequently played the correct national anthem of the People’s Republic of China during the prize presentation ceremony when the Hong Kong team won the final. The organizer blamed the blunder on “human error” by a junior employee!

But few will believe that this is just an unintentional human error. As a seasoned investigator, I have numerous questions for which the organizer needs to be held to account. First, does the organizer have a proper protocol for such a performance, and if so, was it followed properly? Does this “junior employee” have any connection to Hong Kong? Where did he obtain the protest song from? If he works for the sports association, can he possibly be unaware of China’s national anthem, March of the Volunteers, which has been played in many international sports events and numerous solemn official occasions? How come the organizer failed to take immediate steps to stop the broadcast of the wrong song right on the spot but let it continue to the end? For such an important matter, why is there no supervision or double-checking on the so-called junior employee? The whole affair smells of a dirty conspiracy!

As senior counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah, executive councilor, pointed out in a Facebook post, “This was surely not a careless mistake. It must be a criminal act with mens rea and people involved could have committed sedition under the Crimes Ordinance, as well as secession or collusion offenses with foreign forces under the National Security Law” for Hong Kong.

We all know that the Hong Kong rioters who have absconded overseas have been joining forces with foreign governments and activist groups to establish anti-China and anti-Hong Kong movements in various places overseas, often encouraged and sponsored by the Western governments, and will use every conceivable means to pursue their aims. Thus, the playing of the protest song instead of China’s national anthem would be well within their sphere of dirty tricks. We have seen the creation of a “Hong Kong Parliament in exile” in London, Hong Kong Watch, Stand with Hong Kong, Campaign for Hong Kong, etc, and not forgetting Falun Gong, an international anti-China group heavily sponsored by Taiwan’s administration and with branches all over the world, including South Korea.

It is disturbing to note that when the clip showing the incident went viral on Facebook, YouTube and other social media, it immediately drew many supporting and sarcastic comments from the local “Yellows” (the anti-HKSARG activists), which makes one wonder whether this is all a coordinated move. It also means that there are still many dormant anti-China elements in Hong Kong who will not miss any opportunity to sabotage China and the Hong Kong SAR! The National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force must take note and carry out a full investigation to ascertain whether any local person or organization is involved. If necessary, it can activate the mutual legal assistance agreement the HKSAR has signed with South Korea to seek assistance from their local law enforcement agencies.

Some Western critics said that Hong Kong has overreacted on such a minor issue. I wonder what the reaction would be of the respective aggrieved parties if the Irish Republic song were to be broadcast as the national anthem of the England soccer team in the coming World Cup?

One further observation is that the Hong Kong players, the coach and manager, while fully aware of the serious faux pas taking place, did not react accordingly. Although they are mainly expatriates, it would be inexcusable if they do not know the tone of the national anthem while representing Hong Kong. They should have walked off the field in protest and not returned until the national anthem was broadcast. The Hong Kong sports associations must now brief their teams on what they should do if this happens again.

This diplomatically intolerable incident cannot be ignored and swept under the carpet. As it is a matter of national dignity, the HKSAR government must demand an in-depth investigation and take whatever appropriate follow-up action to hold the culprits and organizations accountable.

The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and a council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies. He is a retired deputy commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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