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Hong Kong demands probe as protest song again replaces Chinese national anthem

Players of Hong Kong’s ice hockey team make a time-out gesture as the protest song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ was played after their win against Iran, instead of the Chinese national anthem. Screengrab (Hong Kong Free Press / YouTube)
Players of Hong Kong’s ice hockey team make a time-out gesture as the protest song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ was played after their win against Iran, instead of the Chinese national anthem. Screengrab (Hong Kong Free Press / YouTube)

The Hong Kong government has expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over the latest gaffe involving its anthem at a sporting event in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The pro-democracy song “Glory to Hong Kong” was played at an ice hockey match in Sarajevo instead of China’s national anthem — “March of the Volunteers”.

The incident took place on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the Hong Kong government urged those responsible to launch a probe and “solemnly follow up” on the gaffe. Hong Kong also expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over the incident.

This is the fifth time in a year time that the “Glory to Hong Kong” protest song has been played at an event instead of China’s national anthem.

It was reported by local media that as soon as the protest song was played on Tuesday night after the team’s win over Iran, several Hong Kong hockey players made a “time out” gesture.

The song was halted and the correct anthem was then played — after around 90 seconds, Hong Kong Free Press reported.

The match between Hong Kong and Iran was a part of a World Championship Division III Group B match.

“We are very sorry, it will be corrected,” an announcer said before the correct song was played.

The Chinese government praised the Hong Kong players for drawing attention to the error. “The HKSAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] government affirms the performance of Hong Kong athletes in safeguarding the dignity of the country on the spot,” a government statement.

The Sports Federation and the Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China [SF&OC] said on Wednesday that it had been in close contact with the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association and said they had acted in accordance with the SF&OC guidelines and provided a correct version of the anthem to event organisers.

“The athletes and team manager involved have responded immediately in an appropriate manner during the incident and notified the organiser to stop and make correction swiftly. This proves that the relevant guidelines have all along been effective.”

This is not the first time the Hong Kong government has been angered by such an incident. In December last year during the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championships in Dubai, when weightlifter Susanna Lin won a gold media, “Glory to Hong Kong” was played instead of the Chinese national anthem. The athlete also made a time-out sign to stop the song after about 15 seconds.

In November, the South Korean organisers of a regional rugby tournament apologised for mistakenly playing “Glory to Hong Kong”, in an incident that sparked strong opposition from the city’s government.

“Glory to Hong Kong” – whose lyrics call for democracy and liberty – was played before the men’s finals between South Korea and Hong Kong in the second leg of the Asian Rugby Seven Series in Incheon, just west of Seoul.

Video of the song playing at the tournament went viral on social media in Hong Kong, where the anthem composed by a local musician and sung by demonstrators during the widespread anti-government protests in 2019 is now highly sensitive.

The Hong Kong government also issued a strongly worded statement to express its dissatisfaction over the incident. “The National Anthem is a symbol of our country. The organiser of the tournament has a duty to ensure that the National Anthem receives the respect it warranted,” a government spokesperson said.

The Seoul-based Korea Rugby Union later said that the wrong song was played because of a human error and it wasn’t politically motivated.

In December, Hong Kong‘s leader John Lee criticised Google’s refusal to remove the protest song from the results pages of online searches for China’s national anthem.

Mr Lee said the Alphabet Inc-owned platform has “a moral obligation” to prominently feature the correct national anthem in search results instead of a protest song.

“If any company is in any way responsible, it has that moral obligation,” Mr Lee said.

“There are ways to do it, it’s a matter of whether a company acts responsibly and respect[s] the importance of (a) national anthem in the global context.”