Police interview members of Hong Kong Rugby Union over national anthem blunders at overseas sports events

Police interviewed members of the Hong Kong Rugby Union on Monday and seized records of the body’s communications as part of an investigation into a series of mix-ups at overseas sporting events involving China’s national anthem.

A police spokesman said the inquiry would cover three separate incidents where the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong”, which originated during the anti-government demonstrations in 2019, was either played or identified as the city’s national anthem instead of “March of the Volunteers”.

“Police today have met some personnel from the Hong Kong Rugby Union and taken their statements, while collecting the relevant communication records of the union,” he said.

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“The force is highly concerned about the incident and will conduct a comprehensive investigation. It will continue to study the incidents and collect evidence with the relevant parties and organisations.”

According to police, officers from the organised crime and triad bureau were also investigating whether the incidents constituted breaches of the National Anthem Ordinance, the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance or any of the city’s other laws.

The first mix-up occurred at a match in South Korea on November 13, when event organiser Asia Rugby played the protest song instead of the national anthem as the Hong Kong team took to the field for the final against the host nation.

Politicians from Hong Kong’s pro-establishment camp and sports officials expressed outrage over the debacle, while Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu ordered police to determine if it violated any of the city’s laws, including the Beijing-imposed national security legislation which has long-arm jurisdiction.

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Asia Rugby, the governing body for the region, apologised for the mistake and said it had failed to relay a recording of China’s national anthem to its South Korean counterparts, adding that it had made an honest mistake with no “malicious” intent.

Another two blunders came to light on Saturday, with one appearing in a video clip featured on a popular sports streaming site.

The footage showed a rugby match on November 6 in Dubai between Portugal and Hong Kong during which the correct music was used but it was wrongly labelled as “Glory to Hong Kong” in a graphic by a TV station that broadcast the game.

The Hong Kong Rugby Union had said World Rugby, the competition’s organiser, attributed the error to a “graphics operator” and subsequently apologised for the mistake.

The same graphic was also used by the international body’s broadcast production crew in its coverage of a match between Hong Kong and Tonga at the Sunshine Coast Stadium in Australia on July 23, the union added.

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