OCT. 11, 2017 (NYTimes.com)
Fans boo China’s national anthem during Hong Kong-Laos soccer match. South China Morning Post Published on Oct 5, 2017
Sports fans in Hong Kong have been turning their backs, booing and even raising their middle fingers as China’s national anthem is played, a protest of Beijing’s growing influence in this semiautonomous city.
While Hong Kong returned to Chinese control in 1997, it still fields its own teams in international sports competitions. One of its most popular teams, men’s soccer, has become a focal point for discontent.
On Tuesday, fans booed before the start of an Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia, which Hong Kong won, 2-0. Last week, they protested the anthem before a friendly match against Laos that Hong Kong won, 4-0.
The boos come from hard-core fans who worry that Hong Kong’s autonomy and unique identity are being undermined by Beijing. A few even hold up signs advocating independence, an idea that mainland and local officials denounce as illegal.
Now the authorities are planning tougher measures. Last month, China’s legislature approved a law prohibiting disrespect of the anthem, barring the song’s use in commercials or parodies, and outlining punishments for people who do not “stand with respect” and “maintain a dignified bearing” when it is played.
But that spirit of protest has been revived in the stadium jeers, which appear to have started two years ago. Hong Kong played China in World Cup qualifiers twice in 2015, and those matches took on an added political dimension coming a year after the street protests.