Hong Kong sports groups that do not comply with guidelines in place to ensure the correct version of the national anthem is played at international sporting events could be punished, Chief Executive John Lee has said.

Lee’s comments came after the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee (SF&OC) said it believed that the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association (HKIHA) “did not perform [its] duty in accordance with the Guidelines” in a report submitted to the government.

John Lee
Chief Executive John Lee. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Pro-democracy protest song Glory to Hong Kong was played at an Ice Hockey World Championship match between Hong Kong and Iran in Bosnia and Herzegovina last month, instead of the city’s official national anthem, China’s March of the Volunteers.

Lee said on Sunday that if organisations participating in international competitions did not comply with the requirements as listed in the guidelines, the government would impose sanctions. “Possible sanctions include suspension of membership by SF&OC; and suspension of subvention or funding support from the Government,” the SF&OC guidelines state.

“Incidents where a non-national anthem of Hong Kong is played in various international competition are unacceptable,” the chief executive said on Sunday.

According to SF&OC regulations, Hong Kong sport teams must either take a toolkit containing the national anthem from the federation, or download the national anthem from the federation’s website. The file must be handed to the competition organiser.

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Photo: Hokejaški savez BiH screenshot.

According to the SF&OC, the HKIHA did not say when or how the correct version of the anthem was provided, the federation said.

“Also HKIHA failed to mention as whether a hard copy (computer disk or USB) of the national anthem was passed to the organiser, and whether they had requested the organiser to confirm receipt in writing as per the requirement stipulated in [the guidelines],” the SF&OC statement read.

“As of today, despite persistent questioning by SF&OC, HKIHA has been evasive and failed to address such questions in their two reports. It is therefore strongly believed that HKIHA did not perform the duty in accordance with the Guidelines.”

Additionally, the leader of the Hong Kong team did not insist on checking the national anthem after the organiser did not attend to the initial request, SF&OC said.

“It is hence suggested that SF&OC, in conjunction with the respective department of the Government, should consider implementing possible and appropriate sanctions against HKIHA as per Para. 13 of the Guidelines,” the statement read.

Kelvin Yeung Chris Sun Vincent Liu mirror
Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP

Also speaking on Sunday, Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung said that if the association was found to have failed following the guidelines, the administration will adopt “a serious attitude to deal with the matter in a strict manner.”

The controversial ice hockey match came amid a months-long row over the mix-ups, and is the fifth such incident to have emerged in less than a year.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.