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Watch: Hong Kong football fans boo the Chinese national anthem to stand up to Beijing

Hong Kong fans sing while holding banners at the World Cup qualifying match between Hong Kong and the Maldives in Hong Kong, China June 16, 2015. Hong Kong's leader warned on Tuesday that violence will not be tolerated, a day after authorities arrested 10 people and seized suspected explosives ahead of a crucial vote on a China-backed electoral reform package this week. Anger has spilled over to football crowds, with supporters of the Hong Kong team loudly booing the Chinese national anthem on Tuesday night at the start of the local World Cup Asian zone qualifying match against the Maldives.
Reuters/Bobby Yip
They’re not just talking about soccer.
By Lily Kuo
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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.

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