|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.|
By Park Ji-won
HONG KONG ― The Korea Rugby Union, the local operator of the second leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series held in Korea between Nov. 12 and 13, apologized for playing "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 Hong Kong government chastised Asia Rugby Monday morning about what happened and asked for an "in-depth investigation." However, the remarks of the Korean operator contradict those of the Hong Kong government.
Stressing that playing the Hong Kong pro-democracy protest anthem was "simply a mistake" by the Korea Rugby Union and that the Korean union immediately announced the mistake in the stadium and delivered an official apology to the Chinese and Hong Kong teams, a public relations representative from the Korean organization told The Korea Times Monday that "We ask each country to submit national anthems to play, but failed to get one (from the Hong Kong team)."
The person added that "our staff saved 'the Hong Kong national anthem' listed on the top of a search engine in the file folder named, 'Hong Kong.'"
The person continued that the Korea Rugby Union was later informed by Asia Rugby that the organization should play China's national anthem for the Hong Kong team but failed to delete the mistakenly saved file and delivered it to the broadcasting team. The official added that a staff member of the broadcasting team played the song in the file when Hong Kong made it to the final.
Also, the person said that the organizer then played the Chinese national anthem for the Hong Kong team during the award ceremony, after Hong Kong won the final.
|An image showing Hong Kong winning the second leg of the men's Asia Rugby Sevens Series / Courtesy of Asia Rugby's Facebook page|
However, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government said that the Hong Kong team had submitted the anthem file to the local operator.
In a Monday press release titled, "HKSAR Government strongly deplores and opposes playing of the wrong national anthem at the Asian Rugby Seven Series," the release said, "Rugby Asia also confirmed that the recording of the National Anthem submitted by the coach of the Hong Kong Team was the correct one."
The HKSAR said citing a government spokesman that "The National Anthem is a symbol of our country. The organizer of the tournament has a duty to ensure that the National Anthem receives the respect it warranted."
"We have already written to the Hong Kong Rugby Union last evening demanding them to deal with this matter seriously, launch a full and in-depth investigation and submit a detailed report, and convey our strong objection to Asia Rugby, who is the organizer of the Series."
The streaming video uploaded on YouTube for the Sunday competitions has become private due to the release of the wrong anthem, according to officials.
The song played during the final 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."
|A post on Instagram by Cafe de JarGor reads, "Visit our restaurant. If you show your Korean passport, you can get 50 percent discount on your bill. Screenshot from Instagram|
Hong Kong media outlets continue to release related news about the issue on TV and in newspapers. The South China Morning Post printed the headline, "Hong Kong demands full investigation after 2019 protest song played at Korean rugby tournament instead of national anthem," and wrote, "The incident drew the ire of Hong Kong's sports sector and politicians, who were unconvinced it was an 'unintentional mistake.'"
Some pro-democracy restaurants in Hong Kong made the issue into a promotional event, giving those with Korean passports in Hong Kong discounts and some coupons for what happened.
Cafe de JarGor, a local food restaurant chain in Hong Kong that is known to support the anti-government movement and is vocal about anti-government issues, posted on Instagram that they will give a 50 percent discount to Korean passport holders that visit its restaurants for dinner today with the hashtag, "#thankyou" in Korean.
Meanwhile, Asia Rugby released a statement later on Monday saying it and the Korea Rugby Union apologized for mistakenly playing the wrong anthem and edited the match video in every platform with the Chinese anthem.
It said "Asia Rugby and Korea Rugby Union would like to sincerely apologies to the Hong Kong Rugby Union, the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) for this incident. The incident happened due to a simple human error from a junior member of the local organizing committee, playing a song downloaded from the internet instead of the correct anthem."
"Asia Rugby took the match footage off the air immediately and replaced it with the correct anthem on our social media platforms."