Hong Kong’s national security police have arrested a 42-year-old man on suspicion of sedition over social media posts, including one in which he thanked South Korea for “recognising Hong Kong’s national anthem,” local media reported. The message was posted alongside a video of a popular protest song being played instead of the Chinese national anthem at South Korea’s Rugby Sevens, according to HK01.

Police made the arrest on Monday morning in New Territories.

Hong Kong Police
Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“The man is suspected of publishing seditious posts that could incite hatred against the central government and the Hong Kong government, incite others to use violence and incite others to insult the national flag and national anthem on different social media platforms,” police said.

HK01 cited sources to report that the man, who was a courier, has been publishing seditious messages on his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts since last year. Those messages included phrases such as “fight for Hong Kong” and “black-clad rioters train yourself.”

Hong Kong rugby players remained stonefaced as a protest anthem was played instead of the national anthem in Korea. Photo: Rugby7s screenshot via YouTube.

The suspect allegedly also shared a video of a recent South Korean Rugby Sevens game, during which the protest-related song “Glory to Hong Kong” was played as Hong Kong’s national anthem, instead of “March of the Volunteers” – the anthem the city shares with China.

The man was said to have thanked South Korea for “recognising Hong Kong’s national anthem,” according to HK01.

As of Tuesday morning, the man was still in police custody.

National anthem blunders

The Hong Kong government and pro-Beijing politicians were quick to express strong opposition to the mix-up in South Korea, demanding a full investigation. Asia Rugby has since apologised and said it was an honest mistake made by a junior staffer, but that was not enough to quell criticism.

John Lee
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee. File photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Chief Executive John Lee said “Glory to Hong Kong” – dubbed the protest anthem of the social unrest erupted in 2019 – was “closely connected to the 2019 violence and disturbances, and advocacy for Hong Kong’s independence.

Pro-government lawmakers meanwhile asked national security police to probe the incident. Junius Ho went as far as to call for the Hong Kong rugby team to disband.

Hong Kong China flag
Photo: GovHK.

It was later revealed there were more anthem-related blunders. On at least two occasions, the correct national anthem was played or performed but a graphics card mislabelled it as “Glory to Hong Kong” on screen. The Hong Kong Rubgy Union has expressed “extreme dissatisfaction” to respective event organisers over the errors.

A top sporting body announced it would issue guidelines for athletes on how to handle similar situations, including using a stop sign to signal to the event organiser when a wrong song was played, later this week.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.