Criticism surges as protest song played in Asian Rugby Seven

Pro-establishments politicians strongly criticised the protest song played in place of the Chinese national anthem during the Asia Rugby Seven in South Korea on Sunday. Some even slammed the Hong Kong team should be "dismissed".

Glory to Hong Kong, a song written in the city's 2019 protest, was played on Sunday during the match between Hong Kong and South Korea at the Asian Rugby Sevens in Incheon.

"The organisers initially played incorrect music for Hong Kong. This was brought to their attention and an apology was announced after the game," The Hong Kong Rugby Union said on Monday.

The Union said that the mistake was caused by human error of junior staff, and Asia Rugby has sincerely apologised. "The HKRU expressed its extreme dissatisfaction at this occurrence," the Union added, "The HKRU has registered our deepest concern and regret over this incident."

Asia Rugby said the error was a mistake as it issued an apology to both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments. "The incident happened due to a simple human error from a junior member of the local organising committee, playing a song downloaded from the internet instead of the correct anthem," the tournament organisers said.

The Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong said in a statement the explanation given by the organizer was “unacceptable.”

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said police would probe into whether the incident had constituted a breach of the National Anthem Ordinance or other local laws. Chief Secretary Eric Chan also met with South Korea's top diplomat in the city to condemn the incident and requested the Korean side to investigate the matter, Lee added.

Lawmaker Brave Chan Yung slammed the government's failure to implement a mechanism for athletes to respond to "deliberate or unintentional insulting" during competitions.

"There is no excuse for playing a song involved with violent protest," he said, "since China enjoys a high reputation over the world."

"Members of the teams showed no response during the incident," said lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, "which is a humiliation to our country." He even said the only solution is to dissolve the Hong Kong rugby team.

"The act was definitely not unintentional," said Ronny Tong Ka-wah, senior counsel and a government adviser on Hong Kong's Executive Council.

One who conducted this act has committed offences of "secession or collusion with foreign force" under the Hong Kong National Security Law, he claimed, or conspiracy to violate the city's National Anthem Ordinance.

The National Anthem Ordinance was in force in June 2020. Any conduct involving insulting the Chinese national anthem will lead to three-year imprisonment after conviction.

On November 10 this year, a local male journalist was sentenced to three months in jail after pleading guilty to waiving a British Hong Kong flag while the Chinese national anthem was playing at a match of the Tokyo Olympics.