Hong Kong’s government has condemned organisers of a rugby tournament in South Korea after a democracy protest song was played instead of the Chinese national anthem before the territory’s team played a match.
Video shared on social video showed the players looking perplexed as the song, Glory to Hong Kong, was played ahead of the final of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series instead of the Chinese national anthem.
The Hong Kong government “strongly deplores and opposes the playing of a song closely associated with violent protests and the ‘independence’ movement as the National Anthem of the People’s Republic of China,” it said in a statement.
“The National Anthem is a symbol of our country. The organiser of the tournament has a duty to ensure that the National Anthem receives the respect it warranted,” a government spokesperson said.
Glory to Hong Kong was written by an anonymous composer and became an anthem for the pro-democracy movement during protests in 2019, which attracted huge crowds but became increasingly violent as the months dragged on.
The organisers of the tournament in Incheon, South Korea, issued an apology and played the Chinese anthem after the match, which was won by the Hong Kong team.
Hong Kong authorities said they had ordered the city’s rugby union body to conduct an investigation and convey its “strong objection” to tournament organiser Asia Rugby.
In a separate statement, Hong Kong Rugby Union expressed its “extreme dissatisfaction” with what had happened.
The organisation’s preliminary investigation found that the Chinese anthem had been given to the organisers by the team’s coach, and the protest song had been played by mistake.
“Whilst we accept this was a case of human error, it was nevertheless not acceptable,” the HKRU said.
The Chinese national anthem, March of the Volunteers, has been played at international events where Hong Kong has competed since the British handed the territory back to China in 1997.
Playing Glory to Hong Kong in the territory is now all but illegal after Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that rights groups say has “decimated” dissent. It is also considered unlawful under Hong Kong’s sedition law, according to the South China Morning Post.
In September, a harmonica player who played the tune to a crowd commemorating Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was arrested.