An­other an­them of protest

Jeers, boos over Bei­jing’s grow­ing con­trol lead to gov­ern­ment crack­down

The Dallas Morning News - - World - Austin Ramzy, The New York Times

Hong Kong soc­cer fans chal­lenge Chi­nese author­ity at a re­cent match by boo­ing and hold­ing signs dur­ing the play­ing of the Chi­nese national an­them.

HONG KONG — In the United States, ath­letes protest dur­ing the national an­them. In Hong Kong, fans do.

Sports fans in Hong Kong have been turn­ing their backs, boo­ing and even rais­ing their mid­dle fin­gers as China’s national an­them is played, a protest of Bei­jing’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in this semi­au­tonomous city.

Hong Kong re­turned to Chi­nese con­trol in 1997, but it still fields its own teams in in­ter­na­tional sports com­pe­ti­tions. One of its most pop­u­lar teams, men’s soc­cer, has be­come a fo­cal point for discontent.

On Tues­day, fans booed be­fore the start of an Asian Cup qual­i­fier against Malaysia, which Hong Kong won 2-0. Last week, they protested the an­them be­fore a friendly match against Laos, which Hong Kong won 4-0.

The boos come from hard­core fans who worry that Hong Kong’s au­ton­omy and unique iden­tity are be­ing un­der­mined by Bei­jing. A few even hold up signs ad­vo­cat­ing in­de­pen­dence, an idea that main­land and lo­cal of­fi­cials de­nounce as il­le­gal.

Now the au­thor­i­ties are plan­ning tougher mea­sures. Last month, China’s leg­is­la­ture ap­proved a law pro­hibit­ing dis­re­spect of the an­them, bar­ring the song’s use in com­mer­cials or par­o­dies, and out­lin­ing pun­ish­ments for peo­ple who do not “stand with re­spect” and “main­tain a dig­ni­fied bear­ing” when it is played.

With a pop­u­la­tion of 7 mil­lion, Hong Kong is a min­now in the ocean of in­ter­na­tional soc­cer. But the city has a long his­tory with the sport and, with the help of some for­eign-born play­ers, of­ten punches above its weight.

China has a huge pop­u­la­tion to draw from, and its teams have been suc­cess­ful in sev­eral sports. But its men’s soc­cer teams have rou­tinely strug­gled in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

The an­them law went into ef­fect on Oct. 1. But Hong Kong, a for­mer Bri­tish colony, main­tains a semi­au­tonomous ex­is­tence that al­lows it to keep its own eco­nomic and le­gal sys­tems. So Hong Kong will need to en­act its own ver­sion of the law, which it has yet to do.

Thus far, Hong Kong fans are un­bowed.

“We do it spon­ta­neously be­cause we don’t think we are part of the PRC,” said Sanho Chung, 24, who was at Tues­day’s game, us­ing an ab­bre­vi­a­tion for the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China. “We are dif­fer­ent.”

Chung, clad in a red home jer­sey, stood with fel­low fans dur­ing half­time. He said the national an­them law would not stop him from boo­ing.

“It does dampen our free­dom of speech, forc­ing us to re­spect some­thing,” he said. “I worry, but I will still prac­tice my rights. I think this is my right.”

Kin Che­ung/The As­so­ci­ated Press

SSIILTVNHRUViRVHSROVKSRO turned their back dur­ing the Chi­nese national an­them at the start of an Asian Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion soc­cer match Tues­day against Malaysia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.