The Hong Kong government demanded an investigation on Monday after a song associated with the city’s pro-democracy movement was played in place of the Chinese national anthem before a rugby sevens match between Hong Kong and South Korea.
Event organizers played an instrumental version of “Glory to Hong Kong” as the teams lined up for the men’s final of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series on Sunday in Incheon, South Korea. The song, an unofficial anthem for the city’s 2019 pro-democracy protests, includes lyrics that a Hong Kong court has previously ruled could incite secession, a national security offence.
Clips of the incident, which shows the team standing out on the field as the song plays, circulated widely on social media on Monday, threatening to overshadow the Hong Kong team’s 19-12 win.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it “deplores and strongly opposes” the playing of the song, which it said was “closely associated with the violent protests and ‘independence’ movement of 2019”.
“We have already written to the Hong Kong Rugby Union yesterday evening demanding that they take this matter seriously, launch a full and in-depth investigation and submit a detailed report, and convey our strong objection to Asia Rugby, which is the organizer of the Series,” a government spokesperson said, according to the statement.
Local match organizer Korea Rugby Union (KRU) told CNN the error occurred when a worker searched online for a Hong Kong anthem and added the first result to a folder labeled “Hong Kong”. The streaming room staff played the music file in the Hong Kong folder instead of one labeled “China,” the organization said.
The organizer apologized over the stadium loudspeaker and played the Chinese national anthem at the end of the match, according to KRU.
“The Korea Rugby Union will take all measures to prevent this event from happening again in future matches,” the organization said, adding that its “Hong Kong” folder has been deleted.
In a statement, the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) said it “expressed its extreme dissatisfaction” over the incident to the organisers. “While we accept that this was a case of human error, it was not acceptable,” the statement said.
Last week, a woman who waved a British colonial-era flag to celebrate Hong Kong claiming Olympic gold became the first person in the city to be jailed on charges of insulting the national anthem chinese
Hong Kong, a former British colony handed over to the Beijing government in 1997, sends its own representative teams separate from mainland China to a wide range of sporting events, including the Olympics.