Taking to the streets: localists plan live broadcast of Olympic badminton match between Hong Kong and China – on Mong Kok pavement

Activity will be co-hosted by Hong Kong Indigenous, Hong Kong independence advocate Simon Sin and University of Science and Technology student group ProgressUST

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 10:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 August, 2016, 3:50am

Hong Kong is bracing for another potential flare-up in Mong Kok after last year’s riot as localists call for supporters to rally in the heart of the retail hub for a live broadcast of an Olympics badminton game between the local team and the mainland squad.

The localists are urging Hongkongers to “support” their team, despite questions about possible copyright infringement and fears that taking localism to such extremes by “politicising” the games could incite violence and cross-border animosity.

The event will be co-hosted by University of Science and Technology student group ProgressUST, Hong Kong independence advocate Simon Sin and Hong Kong Indigenous, the radical group accused of inciting the Mong Kok riot in February.

The ongoing Rio Olympicshave already sparked some debate on Hongkongers’ sense of identity in relation to mainland China, after some gloated over the disappointing performances of the national squad. Hongkongers have been generally keener to cheer for Chinese athletes in previous games.

The three organising groups will arrange an outdoor screening of the badminton mixed doubles game between China’s Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei and Hong Kong’s Chau Hoi-wah and Reginald Lee Chun-hei at 7pm today. Hong Kong badminton head coach Tim Ho Yiming and player Hu Yun used to be on the national squad.

The organisers said the live broadcast would be held on a relatively wide section of the pavement at the junction of Nathan Road and Soy Street, an area that was rocked by mob violence in February.

Police sources said they were trying to contact the event’s organisers, and would keep a close eye on developments. One source said: “Police are readying reinforcements to deploy in case of any unrest.”

The badminton match will be shown on TVB, which secured the exclusive broadcast rights for the Olympics. TVB’s live programming of the Games was originally scheduled to start at 9pm today.

TVB is already facing flak for focusing only on Chinese athletes rather than the local squad. By yesterday, the Communications Authority had received 32 complaints concerning TVB’s Olympic shows, including five over the lack of live coverage on Hong Kong athletes.

The city’s dominant television station announced on Wednesday that it would make “flexible arrangements”, such as broadcasting a Hong Kong fencer’s match at 8pm on Wednesday.

Yesterday a TVB spokeswoman would only tell the Post that it would keep “a close watch on [the Mong Kok event] to see if there is any infringement” of its exclusive copyright.

Hong Kong Indigenous leader Ray Wong Toi-yeung said organisers would rely on live feeds from abroad, and he agreed with ProgressUST that there was no need to seek police permission for such a gathering as it was just “a leisure activity”.

Asked if they could be infringing on copyrights, Wong said: “We don’t think so because our event is not for profit.”

But barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah warned that TVB could still take action against the organisers, regardless of profits. “Copyright infringement means the publication of copyright items ... without the owner’s permission,” he said.

Writing on his Facebook page on Wednesday, Sin said the live broadcast in Mong Kok would be organised to “let the international community, Chinese people and the public know that there is no reason for Hongkongers to support the Chinese team”.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Ip Kwok-him accused the organisers of “politicising sports”.

“They are clearly trying to incite confrontations between people in Hong Kong and on the mainland,” Ip said.

Meanwhile, Chinese gold medal winners are set to visit the city on August 26-28, but Hong Kong chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong said he would try to invite popular swimmer Fu Yuanhui, who earned a bronze medal in the backstroke.