Return to Site
Nov 9, 8:17 AM EST

Defiant Hong Kong soccer fans boo China anthem at match


AP Photo
AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Multimedia
Hong Kong 10 Years After the Turnover
Latest News
Hong Kong, Southeast Asian nations sign free-trade pact

Defiant Hong Kong soccer fans boo China anthem at match

Hong Kong court grants activist Wong's prison appeal bid

Multimedia
Video photo gallery on trash in China
China celebrates 60th year
Panorama of Tiananmen Square
Remembering Tiananmen
A year after China quake
Migrant laborers struggle to find work
Checking Beijing's Air
China's morning exercises in parks
Exploring Chinese Cuisine
Beijing Architecture Changes For Games
Woman Rescues Homeless Quake Dogs
China Holds Funeral for Panda
China's 1-child Policy Causes Extra Pain
Map of Earthquake Zone in Central China
Entrepreneurs Move Into, Out of China
Olypmics in Beijing Highlight China's Water Woes
Foreign Buyers Head to China Despite Problems
Coal Use Produces Pollution, Illness
Coal Means Profit, Woes for China
China Extending Its Reach Around the World
In China, the Desert Closes In
Latest News
China's deep ties to Zimbabwe could grow after Mugabe era

Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

Top China diplomat talks refugee crisis with Myanmar leaders

House fire in southern Beijing suburb kills 19, injures 8

Senior Chinese envoy in North Korea amid chill in ties

Audio Slideshow
Panorama of Tiananmen Square
Remembering Tiananmen

HONG KONG (AP) -- Hong Kong soccer fans loudly booed China's national anthem at a match Thursday in the Chinese-controlled city, defying Beijing days after Communist leaders tightened penalties for disrespecting the song.

Fans dressed in red in one section of the stadium jeered as the anthem, "March of the Volunteers," was played at the start of a friendly game against Bahrain. Some waved banners reading "Fight for Hong Kong" and "Power for Hong Kong" while security personnel sought to prevent onlookers and some reporters from taking photographs of the banners and fans.

"It is absurd the way we are told what to do," said Ming Cheung, a soccer fan who wore a red T-shirt. "If the government puts down a law dictating how people behave, it means they don't have other means of making people love them."

The long-simmering anthem controversy highlights increasingly tense relations between mainland China and the semiautonomous former British colony, where pro-democracy activists say Beijing is tightening its grip.

It mirrors a similar debate in the United States, where some football players have kneeled on one knee when the "Star Spangled Banner" was played to protest racial inequality, prompting President Donald Trump to urge team owners to fire them.

Anthem jeering reflects the wider concerns of some Hong Kong residents determined to resist mainland China's growing influence on the Cantonese-speaking territory. They're concerned Hong Kong's high autonomy and unique cultural identity are being eroded, as Beijing asserts its authority and reneges on promises to let the city largely run its own affairs.

Tension over the booing in Hong Kong escalated this summer after the Chinese central government moved to toughen punishment for those caught disrespecting the song in public.

A new National Anthem Law came into effect in October, the same month nationalist-minded President Xi Jinping emerged from a Communist Party congress as the country's most powerful leader in decades. Then, on Saturday, China's legislature amended the criminal code so anyone disrespecting the anthem could be imprisoned for up to three years.

A local version of the law still needs to be drafted in Hong Kong and Macau, special Chinese administrative regions with separate legal systems and guaranteed Western-style civil liberties.

Some see the anthem law as specifically targeting Hong Kong soccer fans, who have frequently disrupted the anthem at the start of matches.

The stadium heckling took hold about two years ago, when Hong Kong played China in World Cup qualifying in the wake of massive 2014 pro-democracy protests. In response, the world's governing body for soccer, FIFA, fined the Hong Kong Football Association.

It's unclear how the law will be implemented in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy activists and lawmakers fear it will restrict freedom of expression.

The government needs to address concerns the law will be overly strict, said Simon Young, a Hong Kong University law professor.

For example, if a fan remains silent, sits down or walks away to buy food, it should not be a chance for prosecution, said Young. If Hong Kong's law allows that leeway, it "still leaves a lot of freedom for people to protest in a way that does not actively defile, desecrate or insult."

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.