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Hong Kong ‘Anthemgate’ sends officials into turmoil


HONG KONG — “Please rise for the Hong Kong national anthem!” said the announcer at the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championship in Dubai this month. An official-sounding song began, with trumpets blaring and a singing choir.

Susanna Lin, gold medalist in the Masters 2 under 47kg category, made the “T” sign for time out with her hands – something the Hong Kong Sports Federation and the Olympic Committee had advised athletes to TO DO. The music stopped.

There is, in fact, no “national anthem of Hong Kong”. And while the former British colony competes under its own flag in sporting events, it was transferred to Chinese rule in 1997 and uses the Chinese national anthem, “March of the Volunteers”.

That fact was lost on confused audio technicians at overseas sporting events, who instead played “Glory to Hong Kong,” a song that became popular during mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. Millions protested peacefully against an extradition bill that year, but rising violence amid a heavy-handed police response and shifting protester goals saw Beijing in 2020 impose a law on national security that has been used to suppress the freedoms of protest, speech and academic research.

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In at least four instances in recent months, the wrong song or song title has been used to represent Hong Kong athletes. The seemingly accidental cover of the song at overseas sporting events has Hong Kong authorities on edge.

“Anthemgate” began on November 13 during a rugby sevens match in Incheon, South Korea, when an instrumental version of “Glory to Hong Kong” was played in full. (Athletes had not yet been instructed to use the “T” signal.)

Hong Kong leader John Lee told reporters that “the song that was played was closely linked to the violence and unrest of 2019”.

The authorities took action. A police investigation has been called. Hong Kong’s chief secretary summoned the South Korean consul in Hong Kong to let him know that the government “deplores and strongly opposes the incident” and to call for an investigation. Another Hong Kong official appealed to Google to downplay the song in his search terms, the South China Morning Post reported.

“The police are taking this matter very seriously and are conducting [a] thorough investigation,” Hong Kong police told The Washington Post.

Police confirmed that the Organized Crime and Triads Bureau would gather evidence to find out whether the incidents violated the national anthem ordinance or other laws. Hong Kong says its national security law is applicable worldwide.

Hong Kong sports officials have rejected apologies from Asia Rugby and the Asian Powerlifting Federation, two of the organizations in charge of the events where the wrong song was played. In both cases, the errors appear to have been made by junior staff or volunteers unrelated to Hong Kong, who simply found the file by searching for “Hong Kong anthem” online.

Broadcasts of two other Hong Kong rugby matches this year – one in Australia in July and another in Dubai in November – used the correct file for the Chinese national anthem, but mislabeled it in text as ” Glory to Hong Kong”.

Back in Dubai last week, the athletes and officials observed a minute’s silence after the erroneous record was withdrawn. Finally, a few bars of the Chinese national anthem were played timidly, stopped and restarted.

washingtonpost Gt

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