Hong Kong police say they have begun an investigation into the booing of China’s national anthem in a shopping mall that was showing a live broadcast of the territory’s first Olympic gold in 25 years.
Hundreds of people gathered briefly on Monday night in a shopping mall to watch Cheung Ka Long claim the Olympic men’s individual fencing title.
Police said on Friday they fielded complaints that some people booed during the award ceremony when China’s national anthem was played, according to local media.
At the subsequent medal ceremony, some fans initially booed China’s national anthem and then chanted “We are Hong Kong” in scenes that were broadcast live.
“We are Hong Kong” is often chanted by Hong Kong football fans, many of whom revel in the city’s unique identity and Cantonese culture compared with the mainland, where Mandarin is widely spoken.
It was often chanted by football fans when China’s national anthem played ahead of matches.
“The police have launched an investigation into the incident and will collect relevant evidence,” police told the Reuters news agency in a statement. It gave no further details.
In a separate interview with the AFP news agency, a senior police source said the investigation would cover “any insulting acts” towards the national anthem.
Hong Kong passed a law in June 2020 that criminalised the disrespect of China’s national anthem.
Anyone found guilty of misusing or insulting the anthem can be jailed for up to three years and fined.
Monday’s shopping mall broadcast was a rare occasion for Hong Kong people to gather, with groups limited to a handful of people since early 2020 because of the coronavirus.
Crowds in Hong Kong’s Kwun Tong APM mall were seen chanting “We Are Hong Kong” as the city’s flag was waving at the Tokyo Olympics medal ceremony. Cheung Ka Long won gold in individual men's foil fencing, becoming Hong Kong’s second Olympic gold winner.
— Radio Free Asia (@RadioFreeAsia) July 26, 2021
COVID-19 and a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in June last year have effectively put an end to mass pro-democracy protests that started in 2019.
Since the law took effect, some of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy politicians and activists have been charged and some sent to jail. Others have fled the city and are in self-exile.
Chinese and Hong Kong authorities say the law was vital to restore stability and that all prosecutions are based on evidence and have nothing to do with the people’s background or profession.
Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997.
Beijing promised the city could maintain key liberties and autonomy for 50 years after the handover.
The city was a bastion of free speech inside authoritarian China and democracy protests bubbled for years until they exploded in a huge popular street protest movement two years ago.