The following is a question posed by Dr. Hon. Priscilla Leung in the Legislative Council today (December 7) and a written response provided by Mr. Kevin Yeung, Secretary for Culture, Sports, and Tourism:
The organizer, Asia Rugby, played a song closely connected to the riots and the demonstrations for Hong Kong independence in 2019 as China’s national anthem during the final between Hong Kong and South Korea of the second leg of the Asian Rugby Seven Series held in Incheon, South Korea, in the middle of last month. Commentators have noted that the episode has severely damaged Hong Kong’s and the nation’s honor. The South Korean organizer has also been quoted by South Korean media as saying that it was unable to obtain the recording of the national anthem submitted by the Hong Kong Team prior to the competition, despite Asia Rugby has confirmed that the recording of China’s anthem submitted by the coach of the Hong Kong Team before the competition was the correct one. Will the Government notify this Council in this regard:
(1) Whether it has come to understand why the Hong Kong Team did not take the initiative to ask for the playing to be stopped and to file a protest when the incorrect song was played in place of the national anthem;
(2) Has it investigated whether this occurrence falls within the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong National Security Law;
(3) Considering that it has come to light that certain emigrants have, in relation to this occurrence, encouraged others online to do the same conduct on other occasions with similar circumstances, if the authorities will take further action; and
(4) Will the Government provide this Council with a thorough investigative report on this incident? If yes, when? If not, why not?
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) National Anthem will be played at the men’s final between Hong Kong and the Republic of Korea during the second leg of the Asian Rugby Seven Series on November 13, 2022, in Incheon, South Korea. This is something that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government strongly condemns and opposes.
The tournament’s organizer, Asia Rugby, has already expressed regret and accepted responsibility for the incident. They have also confirmed in writing that the recording of the PRC’s National Anthem that was provided to them by the head coach of the Hong Kong Rugby Team was accurate and that the incident was caused by a junior member of the local organizer making a human error (namely the Korea Rugby Union). At its online news conference on November 15, Asia Rugby admitted that it had not sent the Korea Rugby Union the right audio of the People’s Republic of China’s National Anthem.
The President of Asia Rugby, Mr. Qais Abdulla Al Dhalai, made a special trip from Dubai to Hong Kong on November 22, 2022, to personally explain the situation to the Chief Secretary for Administration. He emphasized that there was no political motivation or malicious purpose behind the occurrence and promised to tighten the appropriate processes to prevent a repeat of the same mistakes.
The HKSAR Government has spoken with the Hong Kong Sports Federation, the Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, and the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee in an effort to avoid a repeat of this error. On November 22, rules were issued for all national sports associations and other sports organizations that receive funding from the HKSAR Government. The guidelines clearly outline how they should ensure the proper use and description of the PRC National Anthem and the HKSAR Regional Flag by overseas event organizers. They also call for them to actively contact their corresponding Asian and international sports federations to ensure that our National Anthem and Regional Flag receive the respect they deserve.
My response to Dr. the Hon. Priscilla Leung’s query is as follows after seeking advice from the Security Bureau and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau:
(1) The Hong Kong Rugby Team informed Asia Rugby, the event organizer, as soon as they realized the wrong song had been played as the 香港國歌, according to the information given by the Hong Kong Rugby Union. Right after the game, Asia Rugby apologized to the crowd in the stadium for playing the incorrect national anthem for the Hong Kong team. The organization also arranged for the PRC’s “The March of the Volunteers” to be played during the medal ceremony for the winning Hong Kong squad.
(2) and (3) The Hong Kong Rugby Team participated abroad, and the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau of the Police is looking into the occurrence of the incorrect National Anthem being played. The National Anthem Ordinance, National Flag, and National Emblem Ordinance, as well as other Hong Kong regulations, are under investigation by the police. The Police are still conducting their investigation, and they will keep contacting the appropriate people and organizations to find out how the occurrences happened and gather evidence.
The Internet is not an imaginary place where the rules don’t apply. The majority of the rules in Hong Kong that were passed to stop crimes in the physical world are, in theory, also relevant to crimes committed online. Any individual or group that posts anything online must abide by the applicable provisions of the National Security Law and local legislation. Law enforcement authorities will hold the appropriate people or organizations legally accountable if any unlawful conduct is discovered.
We also need to stress the extraterritorial impact of the National Security Law. No matter where the individuals or groups who breach the National Security Law are situated, the HKSAR Government will deal with them in line with the law.
The National Security Law has explicitly defined four categories of offenses that endanger national security, namely secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. This raises the question of whether the National Security Law is applicable to the current incident. The facts of the case, the relevant acts and men’s rea, the evidence acquired, and other factors will determine if any individuals or organizations’ actions break the law. We shouldn’t comment on specific cases since the inquiry is still open.
In any case, putting the nation’s security in peril is a very severe crime. To avoid taking unneeded legal risks, no one should try to breach the law. We will take legal action if there is any proof that someone has broken the National Security Law or other Hong Kong legislation, such as the National Anthem Ordinance and the National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance.
(4) It is just unacceptable that the PRC’s national anthem was performed in 2019 to a tune that is strongly linked to violent demonstrations and the “independence” movement. The national anthem is a nation’s emblem and indication, and it must always be honored. Asia Rugby admitted fault for the occurrence and promised to prevent a repeat of the same error. We presently have no basis to assume that there were any political considerations or malevolent intent, based on the material that is now available.
As was already reported, the Police are looking into the event to see whether the National Anthem Ordinance or any other Hong Kong laws were broken. Based on the findings of the inquiry, the government will take the necessary next steps.