Hong Kong sports teams are now required to boycott medal ceremonies at international competitions if the organiser refuses to let the team leader verify the Chinese national anthem or regional flags on site, according to amended guidelines issued by the top sports federation representing Hong Kong at the Olympics.

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

The move came after the 2019 protest song Glory to Hong Kong was played instead of China’s March of the Volunteers at several international sporting ceremonies attend by Hong Kong athletes.

In a statement published on Tuesday, the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC) said that the new guidelines will come to effect on Thursday. There was also a briefing session conducted by SF&OC on Tuesday attended by over 230 representatives of the member associations.

In the amended guidelines, the SF&OC said:” The local event organisers had downloaded the wrong song through Google search or YouTube which placed the wrong song as the top search result. Google and YouTube are hence proven to be totally unreliable in the search for the correct National Anthem of Hong Kong, China Teams.”

The government only launched an English-language web page with anthem details in April, months after the anthem row erupted.

According to the updated guidelines, the member sports associations – also known as National Sports Associations (NSAs) – will now have to collect an anthem toolkit from SF&OC every time before setting off for international sports events. The SF&OC will provide two regional flags, two hard copies of the anthem – either computer disks or a USB drive – as well as an acknowledgement receipt for the organisers to sign.

Aside from the hard copies, before departure, the associations will have to provide the event organiser with the official web link to the national anthem’s recording, as well as the correct specifications of the regional flag.

tokyo olympics sports japan table tennis
Hong Kong women’s table tennis team – Doo Hoi-kem (left), Lee Ho-ching (centre), and Minnie Soo (right) – won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. File photo: Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China.

The team leader will be responsible for bringing along the toolkit, then must pass one hard copy of the anthem and one regional flag to the organiser, who will have to sign the confirmation form.

Before the playing of the national anthem, or raising of the regional flag, the team leader will have to check to ensure the correct version will be used. If the organiser refuses to let the team leader check the national anthem and the regional flag, the team leader must not allow team members to attend the sports event or awards presentation ceremonies.

The SF&OC will provide a checklist on the actions required to be carried out by NSAs.

If an incorrect song is played, an incorrect flag is raised, or if the regional flag is not raised properly, the team leader must lead the team members to use their hands to display a “time out” gesture in order to object and and call for a halt. The team leader will then lead the team to leave the ceremonial venue if there is no immediate correction.

After the incident, the team leader should report to the designated contact person of the SF&OC within two hours by phone and submit a brief written report for the next working day.

Ice Hockey Match Hong Kong Iran National anthem blunder
The protest song Glory to Hong Kong was heard instead of China’s Marches of the People during an ice hockey match between Hong Kong and Iran on February 28. File photo: Screenshot, via Hokejaški Savez Bosne i Hercegovine.

“For [cases of] non-compliance with the above guidelines, the [NSAs] concerned may be subject to sanction after taking into consideration the circumstances of each case,” the guidelines said. “Possible sanctions include suspension of membership by SF&OC and suspension of subvention or funding support from the government.”

Anthem mix-ups

Last November, the protest song was heard at a Rugby Sevens game in South Korea after an intern reportedly downloaded it off the internet.

Similar mix-ups occurred at international sporting finals, including at a prizegiving ceremony of a weightlifting championship in Dubai and most recently at a February ice hockey game in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The government has said Glory to Hong Kong 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.

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Mandy Cheng is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. Previously, she worked at Ming Pao, focusing on investigative and feature reporting. She also contributed to Cable TV and others.