Anti-climax: live screening in Mong Kok of Hong Kong-China Olympic badminton match passes without incident
About 100 police officers deployed to keep watch over public broadcast organised by Hong Kong independence advocates as anti-mainland sentiment runs high in the city
A localist rally in Mong Kok which some feared could have descended into violence had an anti-climactic ending on Friday night, with about 200 participants dispersing peacefully after watching China beat Hong Kong in a live broadcast of an Olympics badminton match.
The crowd, monitored by some 100 officers from the Police Tactical Unit, scattered after Hong Kong’s Chau Hoi-wah and Reginald Lee Chun-hei lost 0-2 to China’s Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei in the mixed doubles game.
Watch: hundreds view live screening of Olympic match
But given concerns that the localists’ call for supporters to cheer on the home team against the national squad could inflame anti-mainland sentiment, police had an additional 170 officers on standby in case chaos broke out at the site on Soy Street.
The same site was rocked by rioting in February involving members of Hong Kong Indigenous, one of the groups that organised the screening. That group advocates Hong Kong independence. It has had a member, Edward Leung Tin-kei, disqualified from the coming Legislative Council elections due to his political stance.
The crowd grew to about 200 at its peak, with the majority being young and middle-aged.
Chiu Chor-chun, 60, said she came to back students and young people in their pursuit of localism, but she did not support Hong Kong independence because it was impossible to realise.
“We need to support our own team and our own people,” said Chiu. “I have been supporting the young people since they started to ask for genuine universal suffrage two years ago.”
Alex Wan Chung-hang, a 27-year-old property management worker, said he attended the event to show his unhappiness over TVB’s “selective broadcast” of games involving the Hong Kong team.
Wan said he also supported Hong Kong Indigenous because Hongkongers should protect their own culture and values.
The outdoor screening was organised because the television station, which has the exclusive broadcast rights for the Olympics, originally did not include the match in its programming.
The Communications Authorities received complaints against TVB for prioritising games involving the national team over Hong Kong participants.
Under pressure, TVB changed its mind the night before the Mong Kok rally.
Police sources said they would look into whether the organisers, who had not applied for a letter of no objection for the rally, could face arrest for unlawful assembly.
Lydia Lam Hin-hei, co-organiser and convenor of the University of Science and Technology student group ProgressUST, denied accusations that they tried to incite conflict.
“Irrespective of whether we held this event or not, there have to be identity conflicts,” she said. “Many people really feel they are Hongkongers instead of Chinese and want to support the Hong Kong team.”
But Olympian Chau Hoi-wah did not share the sentiments of her supporters back home.
“We are friends of China and all the players and others around the world,” Chau said. “I don’t think people should politicise sport.”
Asked if she felt the rally organisers were using her for political gain, Choi said: “No, there’s nothing we can do about it. People are free to do what they want.”
Additional reporting by Clifford Lo and Joyce Ng