Anti-mainland China sentiments

We might start taking Hong Kong fans’ names to curb national anthem booing, FA director says

Wilson Wong joins team captain Yapp Hung-fai in appeal to fans to stop jeering the song, but admits there is little else his organisation can do

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 11:27pm

Soccer fans who buy tickets to watch the Hong Kong team’s matches could have their names taken in future, as part of attempts to reduce booing when the national anthem is played, according to a director of the football association.

But Wilson Wong Wai-shun admitted there was little the HKFA could do before local laws protecting the song from abuse come into force.

Wong and Hong Kong team captain Yapp Hung-fai appealed to fans not to boo the anthem before Thursday night’s friendly match against Bahrain at Mong Kok Stadium, after a warning over the jeers from the sport’s regional governing body.

Hong Kong has seen a rise in anti-mainland sentiment in recent years. The trend of booing the national anthem began two years ago in the wake of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Occupy protests.

World soccer’s governing body Fifa has already fined the association at least twice because of the booing.

Wong said: “We can step up inspections to ban fans from bringing in protest banners or other props. But, as for booing the anthem, at this stage, we can only appeal to the fans to respect the national anthem.”

The Asian Football Confederation disciplinary and ethics committee recently gave a “stern warning” to the association for the fans’ anthem-booing at the Asian Cup qualifying match against Malaysia on October 10. It warned that a repeat would “be met with more severe punishment”, which could mean a large fine, or the team having to play future matches in an empty stadium.

What will China’s national anthem law mean for Hong Kong?

“For the sake of the Hong Kong team and for the sake of Hong Kong football development, we hope all fans behave themselves inside the stadium,” Wong said.

“In the long run, we may consider requiring fans to register their names when buying tickets for international matches so each ticket would bear the name of the holder. We can also not sell tickets to repeat offenders.”

Yapp, the Hong Kong team captain and goalkeeper for club side Eastern, echoed the association’s appeal to fans.

“The interest of the Hong Kong team should always come first,” Yapp said.

“Every fan has his own right when he holds a ticket to the game and it’s not under the players’ control, but please be aware of your action that it may harm the Hong Kong team, after the warning from the Asian Football Confederation.”

Another association director, Pui Kwan-kay, said there was little the HKFA could do beyond such appeals.

“In the future, when the local national anthem law is passed, we may report it to police if we find some people showing disrespect,” Pui said.

The Power of Hong Kong, a major fans’ group, said it would not encourage fans to do anything other than “cheering for the Hong Kong team”.

“We come to the match to support the Hong Kong team and that’s our primary aim,” a key member of the group said. “We heard someone booed the national anthem during previous games but that’s nothing to do with our group.”

Watch: How well do Hongkongers know their own national anthem?

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee over the weekend approved incorporating the mainland’s National Anthem Law into the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. The city government now has to come up with, and pass, a local version of the law.

Under the mainland law, offenders are liable to 15 days’ detention or three years’ imprisonment.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen hinted that no formal consultation would be held over the local anthem law, despite pan-democrat appeals for one.

Instead, the government will first table the draft law to the Legislative Council by the first quarter of 2018, then get the Executive Council’s approval before moving it to the Legco bills committee for further scrutiny, Nip said.

Nip said there would be many opportunities for Legco and the public to express their views on the law, adding that the government would take those views into account.

Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung