Ahead of a critical vote over whether to implement a Beijing-proposed plan for introducing universal suffrage, Hong Kongers are resorting to unusual way to express their frustration with Beijing. Local football fans have started booing when China’s national anthem—Hong Kong does not have its own—is played during football matches.
Here they are drowning out the anthem during a match between Hong Kong and the Maldives last night, part of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, and chanting, “We are Hong Kong.”
A local television station seen as sympathetic to China cut the jeering from its broadcast. Hong Kongers also booed as the national anthem played during a game last week against Bhutan. (Hong Kong won both matches, 2-0 against the Maldives and 7-0 against Bhutan.)
Tensions are at an all-time high this week over an election plan that allows only pre-screened candidates to run for Hong Kong’s top office. The proposal is part of previous promises from Beijing to implement democratic elections in Hong Kong after taking over the city in 1997. But critics and pro-democracy supporters, including a critical bloc of lawmakers that have promised to vote the proposal down, call the system “fake universal suffrage.”
In the nearly 20 years since Hong Kong has returned to Chinese control, anti-Chinese sentiment has been growing, and Hong Kong residents see themselves as vastly different from mainland citizens. Chinese football fans, on the other hand, were shocked at the disrespect their fellow country-men showed the Chinese anthem, “March of the Volunteers.” One commentator wrote on a sports forum, “Hong Kong is nothing, just destroy it.”
The real showdown will be when China and Hong Kong’s football teams face off in September in Shenzhen, and again in Hong Kong in November. At that point, Hong Kong will likely have rejected Beijing’s election plan and fans on both sides may be even less charitable.