Football: Hong Kong fined after fans boo Chinese anthem
BEIRUT: Hong Kong have been fined $3,000 after fans jeered the Chinese national anthem during an Asia Cup match last month, the third time they have been punished for booing.
Fans have taken to booing the anthem as concerns grow that semi-autonomous Hong Kong’s freedoms are under threat from Beijing.
Despite appeals for restraint and a large police presence, fans booed during the “March of the Volunteers”, the anthem the city shares with China, at the Asian Cup qualifier against Lebanon in November.
“The Hong Kong Football Association Ltd is ordered to pay a fine of $3,000” over improper spectator conduct, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) disciplinary and ethics committee said in a statement.
It added that repeated violations would receive “more severe punishment”.
Local legislation is now pending to punish those deemed to have disrespected the anthem after Beijing pushed for tougher penalties.
Booing has become common during the anthem at matches since the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement rallies of 2014, which failed to win concessions on political reform.
Fans have also previously turned their backs and displayed Hong Kong independence banners during matches as some activists call for the city to split with the mainland.
In January 2016 the HKFA was fined almost $10,000 by FIFA over booing at a World Cup qualifier.
It was also fined $5,000 in October 2015 by FIFA after fans booed and threw a carton of lemon tea onto the pitch at a rival player.
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislature, approved an amendment in November to increase the penalty for disrespecting the national anthem from 15 days of detention to up to three years’ imprisonment on the mainland.
The law was then inserted into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, but it was unclear if the maximum penalty would apply.
China’s laws can be extended to Hong Kong by adding them to the Basic Law, followed by local legislative procedures.
Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has previously said “protecting the dignity of the national anthem is the obligation” of her government, which is expected to push forward the legislation next year.