|A screenshot from an Asia Rugby press conference, Tuesday. Screenshot from a video uploaded on Asia Rugby's YouTube channel
By Park Ji-won
HONG KONG ― Asia Rugby has admitted that the organization didn't pass on the Chinese national anthem audio file to the Korea Rugby Union, regarding the incident in which the Hong Kong protest anthem was played instead of China's national anthem for the Hong Kong team during the final of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series held in Incheon, Korea, Sunday.
Confirming that the Hong Kong team did give the "right" anthem file to Asia Rugby in October for the Bangkok tournament, which is part of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, interim chief executive Benjamin van Rooyen of Asia Rugby said during an online press conference held Tuesday that "Asia Rugby did not give any file to Korea Rugby."
"I think this is another grey area where I would say, from the Asia Rugby side, there was an understanding that Korea Rugby had this specific anthem on file based on the fact that in July, the correct anthem was played," he said, adding that Asia Rugby's understanding was that the host union would receive it from the participating country first.
When asked its stance about over happened, a spokesman from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism told The Korea Times Wednesday that "this situation happened between sports organizations in the private sector and we are aware that the rugby organizations explained (what happened) enough (to each other) and took measures on the matter."
Meanwhile, Asia Rugby hasn't provided an answer yet when asked by email whether they should have provided the anthem to local operators.
When asked if the KRU did not save the correct anthem used in matches before the current tournament, it told The Korea Times to check its earlier statement issued on Monday.
The Hong Kong government may file a complaint to the world governing bodies for rugby, such as World Rugby, the Olympic Council of Asia and the National Olympic Committee, to ask for Korea to be banned from hosting such events, Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, the honorary secretary general of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, said on Wednesday, according to The South China Morning Post.
|A screenshot of a video showing the Hong Kong rugby team at the Asia Rugby Sevens Series on Sunday listening to the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement protest anthem, 'Glory to Hong Kong' instead of the Chinese national anthem. Screenshot from a video uploaded on Twitter.
The announcements came after The Korea Times reported Monday that the Korean Rugby Union didn't get any file from the Hong Kong team, which is contradictory to what the Hong Kong government had said. The government claimed that the Hong Kong team had offered the "correct" anthem to Asia Rugby, which is in charge of giving the anthems it receives from participating countries to local operators.
A KRU spokesman later confirmed on Tuesday that Asia Rugby had not given any anthem files to the Korean organization.
"We had to download the anthems from online, including for the women's final teams of China and Japan, but the other teams' anthems were okay. It went wrong only with the Hong Kong team," the KRU's public relations representative said late Tuesday.
The KRU, the local operator of the second leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series held in Korea between Nov. 12 and 13, played "Glory to Hong Kong," a protest anthem widely sung during the 2019-2020 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, instead of the Chinese national anthem, "March of the Volunteers," during the men's final round between Hong Kong and Korea held in Incheon, Korea on Sunday.
The KRU and Asia Rugby apologized to the Hong Kong Rugby Union, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) for what happened in a statement on Nov. 14, and the interim chief also apologized for the incident during the conference.
The local organizer apologized at the stadium right after the incident and played the Chinese national anthem at the end of the match, according to the KRU.
"Glory to Hong Kong" has been widely embraced as an anthem for the anti-government protesters in Hong Kong for its lyrics, including "freedom" and "liberate our Hong Kong."
The song is reportedly not banned for violating Hong Kong's national security law, but The South China Morning Post reports, "The song was the subject of contention in the first trial under the national security law, which involved a man who rammed a motorcycle carrying a flag bearing the protest slogan into three police officers. The court found the slogan could be interpreted as secessionist."
Chief Executive John Lee of the Hong Kong government said Tuesday that the Hong Kong police would investigate the anthem mistake while expressing "strong opposition" with South Korea's top diplomat in the city on Monday.