Hong Kong’s ice hockey body has been accused by the city’s Sports Federation & Olympic Committee (SF&OC) to be “all talk and no action” over a national anthem blunder at an international competition. It added that the organisation had problems with its administration.

Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China.
Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The SF&OC hosted a board meeting on Friday morning to discuss a report filed by the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association (HKIHA) over an incident where pro-democracy protest song Glory to Hong Kong was played at an Ice Hockey World Championship match instead of China’s March of the Volunteers on February 28.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the SF&OC’s President Timothy Fok praised the prompt response by the athletes and their team leader. Several players of the Hong Kong team made the “time out” gesture as per the SF&OC’s new guidelines shortly after they heard the wrong song.

However, Fok said inadequacies were found within the administration of the HKIHA when the SF&OC followed up on the matter: “The HKIHA management cannot shirk their responsibilities,” Fok said.

Adding to Fok’s comments, the federation’s Honorary Secretary General Edgar Yang said the HKIHA’s submissions did not clear up their doubts: “In fact, our view on the response [from HKIHA] was that it had basically been all talk and no action,” Yang said, adding that they found the outcome was a result of “problems in administration.”

Timothy Fok
The President of the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, Timothy Fok met the press on March 24, 2023. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Yang said the SF&OC would file a report to the government on Monday over their findings.

He said the federation will have to wait for the authorities’ reaction in the coming month and work together with them to determine what changes should be made to the HKIHA’s administration, as well as the anthem guidelines for all sporting associations.

As for potential consequences for the ice hockey body, Yang said the SF&OC could hand down match suspensions or serious warnings, and that they would wait to see what would be the most appropriate.

“The reason why we have to coordinate with the government is that – after all – the anthem of Hong Kong, China, is a matter that we, every Hongkonger, every Chinese, must take seriously,” Yang said.

Athletes’ morale

When a reporter asked if too many political tasks were being handed over to athletes or their team leaders, Yang said he “absolutely disagreed” with the statement, as he said the sports federation’s focus was on the management of sporting associations rather than on the players themselves.

Edgar Yang
The Honorary Secretary General of the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, Edgar Yang met the press on March 24, 2023. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

As to whether athletes’ morale would be affected, Yang said they would have understood the importance of discipline given Hong Kong’s current circumstances: “[The athletes] would be more unhappy over why their association fails to do its part – I believe that is how I should answer you,” Yang added.

Ice hockey body’s replies so far

The HKIHA has come under fire by the SF&OC as well as the Hong Kong authorities since the February match.

The sports federation earlier said the ice hockey association “did not perform [its] duty in accordance with the Guidelines” laid out by the SF&OC to prevent similar anthem blunders. The mix-up at the ice hockey match was the fifth such incident to have emerged in less than a year.

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Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee had called the incident “unacceptable” and said the HKIHA could face government-imposed sanctions if it did not comply with guidelines.

On March 11, the organiser of the match in question – the Ice Hockey Association of Bosnia & Herzegovina – offered its “deepest apology” to its Hong Kong counterpart and said the mix-up was “an honest human mistake.”

Hong Kong’s ice hockey body later cited problems with the official hyperlink provided by the SF&OC and said it prevented the match organisers from successfully downloading the correct anthem.

When HKFP reached out to the HKIHA on Friday afternoon, a representative from the association said “they had no comment at the moment.”

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.