A Hong Kong man who displayed a British colonial flag during a FIFA World Cup qualification match was taken aside by police.
Around 15 minutes before the match, a man wearing a hat and a white shirt held up Hong Kong’s colonial-era flag in the Hong Kong Stadium’s spectator stand. He was soon approached by at least two plainclothes police officers and led away, Yahoo News reported.
Police then searched the man’s bag, according to photos by online media outlet The Collective.
In response to HKFP, the police said in a statement that they identified a 21-year-old man who “displayed a flag” when police were maintaining order at the stadium.
“Our staff therefore approached the man for further investigation. No one was arrested in the incident,” a police spokesperson told HKFP in Cantonese.
Police did not reply as to why the man was taken away and whether he returned to the spectator stand afterwards.
The colonial flag, emblazoned with the Union Jack and a dragon and lion motif, was adopted by the colonial government as Hong Kong’s flag from 1959 to 1997 before the city was returned to China.
The flag was waved occasionally at assemblies and marches during the 2019 protests and unrest. During the July 1 storming of the Legislative Council building in 2019, some protestors hung the flag on the podium after breaking into the building.
Tam Yiu-chung, a pro-Beijing politician who is a former member of the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress, told media outlets in May 2020 – ahead of the national security law’s enactment – that he believed waving the colonial flag during marches would violate the legislation.
In November last year, a citizen journalist who waved the colonial flag while the Chinese national anthem was being played was sentenced to three-months’ jail for insulting the anthem. The incident, during which people were gathered at a mall to watch an Olympics medal ceremony, marked the first conviction under the National Anthem Ordinance which came into effect in 2020.
National anthem booed
Hong Kong matches have sometimes become platforms for political demonstrations in recent years.
Hong Kong football fans were heard booing China’s national anthem in September last year at Hong Kong Stadium, when the city saw its first match that was open to spectators after the government lifted Covid-19 restrictions.
A team of six policemen patrolled the stadium, with one holding up a video camera recording the scene as some fans booed “March of the Volunteers” for about 10 seconds before the Hong Kong team took on Myanmar, AFP reported.
During two Asian qualifiers for the World Cup in November 2019, when Hong Kong played against Bahrain and Cambodia, spectators also booed the national anthem. FIFA later fined the Hong Kong Football Association 30,000 Swiss francs (HK$30,500).
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