Pro-democracy protest song Glory to Hong Kong has been played at a sporting event in Bosnia and Herzegovina instead of the city’s official national anthem, China’s March of the Volunteers. Tuesday night’s blunder at an ice hockey match in Sarajevo comes amid a months-long row over the mix-ups, and is the fifth such incident to have emerged in a year.
The song – associated with the 2019 protests and unrest – was halted and the correct anthem was played after around 90 seconds. Several Hong Kong hockey players at the World Championship Division III Group B match made the “time out” gesture as the song was played following their victory over Iran.
“We are very sorry, it will be corrected,” an announcer said, before the correct song was played.
Gov’t demands in-depth probe
The Hong Kong government on Wednesday expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over the latest gaffe. It said athletes had protested immediately in accordance with guidelines issued by the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC).
It urged the organisers to make a correction and demanded the local Olympic committee launch an in-depth investigation, including whether the sports association concerned had re-confirmed with the organisers that the anthem to be played was the correct one.
The government also requested a report from the committee and urged the organisation to “solemnly follow up” on the incident: “The HKSAR government affirms the performance of Hong Kong athletes in safeguarding the dignity of the country on the spot,” a government statement in Chinese read.
The SF&OC said on Wednesday that it had been in close contact with the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association (HKIHA), 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 organizer to stop and make correction swiftly. This proves that the relevant guidelines have all along been effective.”
They told the HKIHA to investigate the cause of the incident in detail and submit a report.
HKFP has reached out to Hong Kong’s Olympic authorities and the Security Bureau.
Last December, local gold medallist Susanna Lin made the “time out” gesture as Glory to Hong Kong was played during the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championship in Dubai.
Last November, the protest song was heard at South Korea’s Rugby Sevens instead of the national anthem. It prompted Asia Rugby President Qais Abdulla Al Dhalai to fly into the city to apologise as the government demanded an investigation. Organisers had reportedly downloaded the top song listed when when searching online for the “Hong Kong national anthem.”
Instances of Glory to Hong Kong being twice mislabelled as the “national anthem of Hong Kong” in televised footage at other rugby events emerged in the days that followed.
The government asked a search engine to pin the correct information about the national anthem at the top of their search results late last year. Local media reported that the search engine in question was Google.
The government said in January that it was working on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for their official websites following the incidents. However, when HKFP searched for “Hong Kong national anthem” in English using incognito browsing mode on Wednesday, the top result was the Wikipedia page for the protest song.
The government has said the song is “closely associated with violent protests and the ‘independence’ movement in 2019.” Though the protests attracted a handful of pro-independence activists, it was not one of the movement’s demands.
A 42-year-old was arrested for “sedition” last November for sharing a video of the anthem blunder with supportive messages of thanks – he was denied bail.
Hong Kong’s national anthem law, which criminalises insults to March of the Volunteers, was enacted domestically on June 4, 2020 – violators risk fines up to HK$50,000 or three years in prison.
Additional reporting: Kelly Ho.