Hong Kong’s top runner, Wong Ho-chung, has lost his Outdoor Golden Rhino Award nomination for trail runner of the year because of an online interview deemed anti-mainland China. The local hero was interviewed after he saved victims of last year’s Yuen Long attacks. He told the SCMP he was not taking political sides.

Wong’s nomination was taken away for “publishing online speech harmful to the motherland’s unification”. The Outdoor Golden Rhino Awards recognise achievement in outdoor sports and sustainability in China. They have been going since 2006.

According to local media, Wong requested to be referred to as Hong Kong-Chinese, rather than simply Chinese, at the awards. He apparently included “add oil” at the bottom of his request.

One interview in particular has surfaced - following his heroics in Yuen Long, when he and his wife entered the MTR to save victims on the night of the attacks.

On July 21, men in white T-shirts stormed into the MTR and indiscriminately beat passengers, many of whom were returning from anti-government protests.

Wong, a firefighter, and his wife, Viann, a nurse, went to Yuen Long to help the victims after they woke up around 11pm that night and saw a live stream of the attacks. “I have to help. Otherwise I will not forgive myself,” he said.

“Women were screaming,” he said. “The men were trying their best to protect them. We even saw a pregnant woman and reporters were being beaten.”

Wong drove to the MTR station, saw the men in white and circled a few times until he could see a safe entrance. Wong entered the MTR and he led people to a fire exit and found the victims a willing driver to help them escape.

Wong and his wife then helped other people escape, drove them home and helped bandage them and provide them with first aid.

Wong cited his responsibility as a firefighter to “protect the public’s well being and properties. So we have always served our society with that spirit”.

Viann said it was not just Yuen Long, but all the troubles in Hong Kong that worried her. They even considered moving to another country.

“What will it become in 50 years’ time?” Viann asked, but she commended Hongkongers’ adaptable spirit.

Wong’s running team director, Ryan Blair, told the SCMP: “Chung is simply proud to represent his home city and he always likes to encourage fellow Hong Kong trail runners to try their best and reach their potential both locally and internationally.”

Wong has won many races this year in Hong Kong, most recently the Golden 100-mile (161km) race at the end of December. His most notable achievement of 2019 was finishing sixth in the famous Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in France in August.

Relations have been strained between Hong Kong and China since June. Protests erupted against an extradition bill that would see fugitives sent to a number of countries, including mainland China, that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with.

The protests have since turned violent and broadened in scope to demands for universal suffrage and an inquiry into police brutality.