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Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Hong Kong sports minister to ‘get tough’ if rule breaches led to hockey anthem blunder

Hong Kong sports minister to ‘get tough’ if rule breaches led to hockey anthem blunder

Sports minister Kevin Yeung says government expects teams to strictly follow new guidelines to prevent mix-ups.

Hong Kong’s sports minister has vowed to “get tough” with the city’s Ice Hockey Association if it is found to have violated rules after a protest song instead of the Chinese national anthem was played once more at an international tournament.

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung’s remarks on Sunday came after the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China accused the team of being “evasive” when asked whether it had followed requirements for the playing of the national anthem at the 2023 Ice Hockey World Championship Division III on February 28.

A song linked to the 2019 anti-government protests was used at the event instead of “March of the Volunteers”.

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung.


The protocol for sports teams was drafted on the heels of a fiasco in which the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong” was played instead of “March of the Volunteers” at a rugby match in the city of Incheon in South Korea in November.

Yeung said the government expected sports teams to strictly follow and enforce the new guidelines to prevent such mix-ups after similar “unacceptable” incidents had already happened in different places.

The protest song was also played at a rugby match in Incheon, South Korea.


“For the current incident, we must find out whether the Hong Kong team had followed the requirements,” he said.

“If they are found to have failed in their job, [the government] will adopt a tough stance and handle it in a tough way,” he warned, adding the administration would determine its next step after the committee submitted its final report.

Weighing in on the incident on Sunday, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said that the national anthem represented the dignity of the city and the nation, calling the repeated mistakes “unacceptable”.

Lee reiterated that such mix-ups were usually triggered by inaccurate search results found on Google.

“We believe that as a huge organisation, [Google] has a moral as well as legal responsibility in protecting one’s national anthem,” he said. “We hope it can find a solution in fixing the problem with us.”

Lee said the government had already engaged with Google multiple times and would continue with its efforts.

Under the new protocol released last November, leaders of sports teams are required to distribute a hard copy of the anthem and a city flag to the event organiser with official confirmation before the game and check with them at the venue.

Those who fail to follow the rules could face sanctions, which include suspension of their membership in the National Sports Association under the committee and loss of subvention or funding from the government.

The report, submitted by the committee on Friday, found that the leader of the city’s ice hockey team did not follow up on a request asking the organiser of the event to check the national anthem beforehand.

The representative should have made a “more robust request”, which could have stopped the incident from happening, it said, adding the government should consider implementing possible and appropriate sanctions against the association.

The report also suggested the staff at the International Ice Hockey Federation had “inadvertently” downloaded the wrong song. Following the mix-ups last year, top Hong Kong officials, including Lee, had criticised Google for allowing a protest song to become the top online search result.

Google had said in December that it did not “manually manipulate organic web listings to determine the ranking of a specific page” and results would not be taken down except for reasons outlined in its policy, such as “valid legal requests”.

Lee in December said he hoped the government could work with Google on a solution to ensure the right content was provided to the public, but there was no updated progress since then.

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