Hong Kong sports teams pressed to put ‘China’ in their names

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Hong Kong sports clubs have been instructed to include “China” in their names, or face losing money and the right to represent the city if the directive is not followed.

Sports bodies were told to comply by July, the Sports Federation and the Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, told The Washington Post on Friday. Those who cannot lose the government funding, is the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau of the city mentioned in the email, which depends on the member of the committee.

The letter, officials said, was sent to sports clubs in the city this week and was directed at those who do not have the word “China” in their names, including the 109-year-old Hong Kong Football Association and the Hong Kong. Rugby Union Kong. Only about a quarter of the 83 sports clubs listed on the committee’s website do.

The International Olympic Committee said the city’s Olympic committee should use “Hong Kong, China” in its name. “This name was taken more than twenty years ago,” an IOC spokesperson said in an email to The Post.

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Without a committee, teams and their players could lose the chance to compete in the Olympics, Asian Games or other international events.

Even more so is changing the words on the jersey. Sports have become political football in Hong Kong: its athletes compete as the Hong Kong team, under the Hong Kong flag, since the former British colony was handed over to the Chinese government in 1997 in under a “one country, two systems” the city can keep its passports and money.

Local fans have cheered for Hong Kong teams, and they’ve been so active in cheering the Chinese national anthem during soccer games that Hong Kong passed a law against it in 2020. Arrested locals watching the game at a mall for refusing to play Chinese music, according to local news.

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Hong Kong officials are very concerned about branding at sporting events. When foreign organizers played the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong” during flag-raising activities, they drew criticism from Hong Kong’s leadership and police. ; The city government tried to force Google to bury the song in search results.

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The latest directive may change the names of sports teams. The city’s Olympic committee said in an email that the use of “Hong Kong, China” in the names “is in accordance with the provisions of Article 149 of the Basic Law,” referring to an ambiguous statement that within the “basic law” of Hong Kong.

The directive is “actually intended to strengthen the sense of national identity towards China,” said Tobias Zuser, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studies sports and culture.

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Zuser notes that sports have become a platform for political expression. “In football matches with the Hong Kong representative team, the fans themselves will embrace the opportunity to show a different attitude from China,” he said.

Cheering for the country’s team is the “last chance” to show local pride, Zuser said. At a soccer game, “10,000 people chant, ‘Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong,’ and that doesn’t happen anywhere else outside the stadium,” he said. Protests have been limited since large pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019 and the passing of a national security law a year later.

When Hong Kong won an unprecedented six medals at the 2021 Olympics, “it really resonated with the Hong Kong people at that time,” Zuser said. “I think that regardless of their political position, they felt that there was some kind of investment in Hong Kong, and the pride that Hong Kong is small enough to have players to compete and win these competitions.”

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