Hongkong Olympians join rebels in judo war

MEMBERS of the national squad have put their careers on the line by throwing their weight behind the rebel group in the Hongkong Judo Association power struggle.

With the two warring factions preparing to face each other in the Supreme Court today, nine national players, led by Olympians Alex Lee Kan and Law Lai-wah, yesterday sent a letter to Hongkong's sports supremo A. de O. Sales backing the rebels.

Rebel leaders Cyril Wong Siu-ming and Jimmy Ng King-cheung formed their own hierarchy under the association banner after they were banned from seeking election to committee positions.

However, the Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, headed by Sales, has continued to support the incumbent party led by president Samson Mak Yiu-cheung and chairman Henry Shing Yuen-hing.

In their letter the players questioned the ability of Mak and Shing to head the association, claiming that under their leadership the standard of judo had gone down and the sport was getting less government subsidy.

They argued that this had curtailed the opportunities to attend international tournaments, unless players were willing to pay their own way.

''I've been in the national squad for 13 years and the situation now is just a complete mess,'' said Lee Kan, a bronze medallist in the men's under-60-kilogram division at the 1992 Commonwealth Championship.

''There was supposed to be a Pacific Rim tournament in New Zealand last month but we were not informed of it and we missed an opportunity to attend a high-level event which would have been helpful in our preparation for the World Championships in September.'' Law, a bronze medal winner in the women's under-56-kilogram category at the 1991 Asian Championships and at the 1992 Commonwealth Championships, doubted whether they would be going to the world tournament in Canada.

She said: ''This power struggle is certainly not doing judo any good and with the Sports Development Board already announcing they will not support any overseas tours, I fear that we cannot go to the World Championships.'' Asked whether they feared they were putting their playing careers on the line with their involvement in the bitter dispute, Lee said they were ready for the consequences.

''We are not siding for any party because of political reasons but we feel that Mr Ng and Mr Wong can do more good for judo than the incumbent group who have held power for four years,'' said Lee.

''We would not be doing this if we were afraid of losing our international careers. But I don't think the incumbent party should bear a grudge against us even if they win.'' The rebel group yesterday went ahead with an extraordinary general meeting at the Marriott Hotel, attended by 29 of the HKJA's 52 member clubs with voting rights.

The clubs present voted to confirm the rebels as the lawful office bearers. The meeting also demanded that the executive committee of 1991-93 hand over all documents of the association and that the treasurer to hand over all accounts.

Vice-president Chan Hung-wai, who chaired the meeting in the absence of president Ng, told the gathering there would be a Supreme Court hearing today at which they would try to obtain an injunction to evict the incumbent officials from the sport's headquarters in Queen Elizabeth Stadium.

Late last night, incumbent chairman Henry Shing claimed yesterday's meeting was illegal as fewer than half the number of member clubs were present.

He said there were a total of 64 clubs, including 12 associate members who did not have voting rights.

He said: ''As far as we are concerned their meeting was not valid and we are not worrying over it.

''We will present our case to the judge tomorrow and it will be for him to decide whether we are the rightful office bearers.

''It's a pity that the other party have drawn the athletes into this dispute, using them as pawns.''