Rugby anthem blunder: Hong Kong authorities in talks with Google, YouTube on how to prevent misleading search results

Asia Rugby, the organisers of the Incheon tournament, earlier admitted that the wrong song had been downloaded from the internet and apologised for the mix-up.

Chan said since there were a number of online search engines, it was more important to fix the process of obtaining the national anthem to prevent organisers from downloading the incorrect song from the internet than just requesting changes to search results.

The organiser had pledged to set up a central repository for national anthems, he added.

The Hong Kong government has ordered a police probe into the three incidents to determine whether any laws were violated, including the National Anthem Ordinance and the national security law, with the latter applying to offences committed outside the city.

Chan also revealed that the force had interviewed members of the Hong Kong rugby team who had played at the Incheon tournament and had examined their phone and computer records, adding there was “no evidence suggesting the members should not be trusted”.

There was also no evidence indicating a “political aim”, as an investigation had determined that junior staff who had played the song had neither studied in Hong Kong nor had any connection with the city, he added.

The Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday issued a new set of protocols for playing the national anthem and raising the city’s flag when local teams played overseas.

The guidelines detail how national sports associations under the committee should ensure the right national anthem and regional flag are used at international sports events.

It also said athletes should make a “T” sign with their hands if they noticed anything amiss when the Chinese national anthem and the city’s flag were used at international sporting events, as well as call for an immediate correction. If there is no swift correction in the wake of a mix-up, the team leader should leave the venue with the entire team until the issue is fixed.

A protest song was played instead of the Chinese national anthem at a rugby match in Incheon, South Korea. Photo: Handout

A protest song was played instead of the Chinese national anthem at a rugby match in Incheon, South Korea. Photo: Handout

The protocols state that associations that fail to comply with the rules could face sanctions such as the suspension of their committee membership and government funding.

Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, the committee’s honorary secretary general, said that if the sport teams at the scene made no attempts to fix the blunders, there might be penalties with a deterrent effect based on the severity of the situation.

“The contract of individual coaches may be terminated if the situation is serious,” he told a radio programme on Friday. “If it involves team leaders, the team leaders may be banned from leading the team in the future.”

Wong said sanctions and an end to government funding could happen if the association’s board of directors did not realise the gravity of the errors and continued to make mistakes.

He explained the committee might impose sanctions by suspending the association’s operations but emphasised that athletes could still take part in competitions.

Wong added that if the organiser was “incompetent” or did not follow the correct procedures, they would file a complaint to international sports federations and the International Olympic Committee to request a sanction on the organisers.

“We will ask them to sanction and ban the organiser from holding international competitions for a period of time,” he said.

He added the committee would provide a toolkit that included two storage devices containing the national anthem as well as two city flags to sports associations participating in international competitions this week.

Additional reporting by Tony Cheung


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