The Hong Kong government on Monday called for an investigation after a song associated with the pro-democracy movement of the city it was played in place of the Chinese national anthem before a seven-a-side rugby match between Hong Kong and South Korea.
Event organizers played an instrumental version of “Glory to Hong Kong” as the teams lined up for the men’s Asia Rugby Sevens Series final in Incheon, South Korea on Sunday. The city’s pro-democracy protests of 2019, includes texts that a Hong Kong court previously ruled could incite secession, a national security offense.
Clips from the incident, in which the team are shown standing at attention on the pitch as the song plays, circulated widely on social media on Monday, threatening to overshadow Hong Kong’s 19-12 win.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it “strongly deplored and opposed” the performance of the song, which it said was “closely associated with the violent protests and the ‘independence’ movement in 2019”.
“We already asked the Hong Kong Rugby Union last night to take this matter seriously, launch a full and thorough investigation and submit a detailed report, and pass on our strong objection to Asia Rugby, which is the organizer of the Series.” a government spokesman said, according to the statement.
In a statement on Monday, Asia Rugby apologized for the incident, saying it “happened due to a simple human error by a junior member of the local organizing committee, who played a downloaded song from the Internet instead of the correct anthem.” .
The local match organizer, Korea Rugby Union (KRU), told CNN that the error occurred when a worker searched online for a Hong Kong anthem and added the highest score to a folder with the “Hong Kong” label. Broadcast room staff played the music file in the Hong Kong folder instead of one labeled “China,” the organization said.
The organizer apologized over the stadium speaker and played the Chinese national anthem at the end of the match, according to KRU.
“Korea Rugby Union will take all measures to prevent a recurrence of such an event in future matches,” the organization said, adding that its “Hong Kong” folder has now been deleted.
In a statement, the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) said it had “expressed its extreme dissatisfaction to the organizers” with the incident. “While we accept that this was a case of human error, it was still not acceptable,” the statement said.
Last week, a woman who waved a British colonial-era flag to celebrate Hong Kong by claiming Olympic gold became the first person in the city to be jailed on suspicion of insulting the Chinese national anthem.
Hong Kong, a former British colony ceded to the Beijing government in 1997, sends its separate representative teams from mainland China to a wide variety of sporting events, including the Olympics.