Hong Kong could escape heavy punishment for fielding a South China-only side at the East Asian Championships qualifiers in Taiwan this week, says a senior official of the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF). Martin Hong Po-kui (pictured), a former chairman of the Hong Kong Football Association, said he would defend Hong Kong when the issue was raised at the EAFF's executive committee in Beijing next Saturday. 'Hong Kong have selected the best players for the tournament and they won,' Hong said. 'What can you ask from them? 'Hong Kong's situation is different from ... South Korea or Japan. Here we only have one top team, South China, who have secured most of the national team players, and if the coach considers their players are the fittest, you cannot blame Hong Kong. They have not done anything wrong. The results proved this as Hong Kong outclassed North Korea to come first in the tournament.' Hong was in Kaohsiung when Hong Kong, represented by 18 South China players, clinched first place in the four-team qualifying tournament, which also comprised pre-tournament favourites North Korea, Guam and the hosts. A superior goal difference over the North Koreans put Hong Kong into next year's East Asian Championship finals where they will meet South Korea, Japan and China. Hong said the federation was not happy with reports saying Hong Kong were represented by a single team. 'The East Asian Championship is the flagship tournament of the EAFF and they don't want to see members do anything that will downgrade the event. What would happen if South Korea or Japan send a club to represent them next year? The federation has taken such a strong stand because they don't want to see the same thing happen. 'If the HKFA can submit sufficient documents proving they have sent the best players to Taiwan, I am confident the issue can be resolved and Hong Kong will get the prize money for winning the qualifying tournament as well as the expenses.' In a letter to the HKFA, the EAFF threatened to withdraw the US$50,000 prize money as well as all their expenses, estimated to be another US$50,000. Hong Kong team manager Steven Lo Kit-sing also insisted they did nothing wrong. 'South China have all the best players,' said Lo, who is also the convenor of South China. 'In fact, we have never seen any rule stating a national team cannot be represented by players from only one team.' Lo is also concerned the finals in Japan will clash with next year's Lunar New Year tournament. 'The Hong Kong team have been a regular feature of the Chinese New Year event, but the East Asian event will now be the top priority as it is a rare chance for us to meet three good teams in one tournament,' said Lo. 'Our target is to beat China as South Korea and Japan are in a class of their own.' Even if Hong Kong finish fourth in Japan, they will still get US$150,000 as a consolation prize.