Hong Kong football fans booed China’s national anthem in breach of the national security law during the first game open to spectators since lockdown restrictions were implemented.
Police with video cameras watched as fans booed the Chinese anthem, March of the Volunteers, for about 10 seconds on Saturday. The boos came ahead of a match between Hong Kong and Myanmar in front of more than 12,000 spectators. The match at Hong Kong Stadium ended in a nil-all draw.
The event was a long-awaited return for Hong Kong supporters who have been barred from matches for almost three years because of the pandemic.
Thousands of Hong Kong fans booed loudly and turned their backs when the anthem was played at a World Cup qualifier match against Iran in 2019 as pro-democracy protests swept the city.
In June 2020, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing legislature made it unlawful to insult China’s national anthem and flag, with punishments of up to three years in prison and fines.
Officials said the law was necessary so that Hong Kong football fans and other citizens would show respect for the Chinese anthem.
Pro-democracy legislators criticised it as an affront to freedom of expression. Shortly after the anthem law came in, Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong, which made it easier to crack down on dissent.
That law has led to former elected legislators and other key figures in the city’s pro-democracy movement being prosecuted, imprisoned or going into self-imposed exile.
On Saturday, the booing was not as loud as before the national security law was passed.
Fans shouted “We are Hong Kong”, a chant that was also heard in years past when China’s national anthem played ahead of matches, to express the city’s identity as being different from that of mainland China. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)
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