‘We are Hong Kong’: can the Olympics sidestep the politicisation of sport in China?

8 months ago 105

In July, much than 5,000 radical gathered on the sides of the APM buying centre successful Hong Kong connected a Monday night. They waved flags and screamed “Hong Kong” astatine the TV. In a new, shiny promenade successful the concern territory of Kwun Tong, an tremendous surface had been hoisted up into the centre of the main concourse, truthful radical could ticker the Olympics.

Videos from the clip showed radical crowded against the railings, stacked up crossed aggregate stories, arsenic they watched fencer Edgar Cheung Ka Long triumph Hong Kong’s archetypal golden medal successful 25 years. Across the territory, passim the Olympics, buying centres became a benignant of municipality square, kept unfastened precocious into the evening.

The Tokyo Olympics were Hong Kong’s astir palmy ever. The metropolis won six medals, much than successful each erstwhile Olympics combined. Thousands watched Siobhan Haughey triumph Hong Kong’s first-ever medals successful swimming: metallic successful the women’s 200m freestyle and 100m freestyle; some Asian records. When the athletes returned, a humbly sized contingent of 46, they were paraded done the metropolis successful an open-top bus.

The Olympics – and athletics much broadly – person go a caller rallying constituent for the Hong Kong identity, a root of politicisation, and a tract for aged arguments. This weekend, Hong Kong marathon runners were ordered to screen up “political” slogans and tattoos earlier being allowed to compete. It was the archetypal large radical sporting lawsuit since the introduction of the nationalist information law. Now attraction turns to the Beijing Winter Games successful February. Athletes are inactive successful the process of qualifying for the wintertime events, but 2 Alpine skiers from Hong Kong person already qualified, meaning the portion volition beryllium sending a squad to Beijing.

Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong smiles aft  the women’s 200-meter freestyle last  successful  Tokyo
Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong smiles aft the women’s 200-meter freestyle last successful Tokyo Photograph: Matthias Schräder/AP

We are ‘Hong Kong’

Hong Kong competes separately from China astatine the Olympics, and has done truthful since 1954, erstwhile it was a British colony. As the satellite focuses much connected the geopolitical definitions of Hong Kong and Taiwan, amid China’s expanding power implicit the former, and claims of sovereignty implicit the latter, the Olympics has stood retired arsenic 1 of the fewer planetary events wherever each 3 are kept abstracted and vie straight against each other.

Cheung’s golden medal astatine the Tokyo Games was the archetypal for Hong Kong since the handover successful 1997. In Hong Kong, arsenic they broadcast Cheung’s medal ceremonial connected the large surface astatine the APM mall, a 40-year-old antheral allegedly started booing the Chinese nationalist anthem, and waving an aged British assemblage flag. He went home, and a fewer days later, was arrested, nether a instrumentality introduced past twelvemonth that criminalises insulting the Chinese emblem oregon nationalist anthem. Gordon Mathews, a prof of anthropology astatine the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post that helium felt immoderate radical successful the assemblage utilized the Olympics to trial what they could bash nether the nationalist information law “that would not get them to jail”.

Other controversies surfaced during the Tokyo Games. Badminton subordinate Angus Ng Ka-long, a large medal hope, kicked disconnected a governmental firestorm simply for wearing a plain achromatic shirt. Ng, ranked 9th successful the world, was “condemned” by Nicholas Muk Ka-chun, a past teacher who is simply a subordinate of the pro-Beijing DAB party, aft helium played his archetypal lucifer successful a achromatic garment and shorts, without the Hong Kong flag. Black is simply a colour inactive heavy associated with pro-democracy protesters, and Muk wrote connected Facebook: “If [you] don’t privation to correspond Hong Kong China, delight take to retreat from the competition”.

Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long successful  the men’s singles badminton radical  signifier    lucifer  successful  Tokyo
Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long successful the men’s singles badminton radical signifier lucifer successful Tokyo Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Ng, a usually reserved and media-shy athlete, instantly clarified that it was not a governmental statement. He had precocious near his sponsor, helium said, truthful had utilized his ain shirt, and had chosen it lone due to the fact that it was comfortable. For the 2nd match, helium and the Hong Kong badminton relation scrambled to find him a replacement, adjacent requesting assistance from the location affairs department. The adjacent match, helium played successful greenish and white, with the awesome of Hong Kong, the five-sided bauhinia flower, implicit his chest. He was knocked out, successful an upset, by the satellite fig 59, Kevin Cordon. In his post-match interview, helium said helium felt “tense and nether pressure”.

The information that Ng, a devotedly non-political athlete, was caught successful the mediate of this statement is the latest illustration of sport’s expanding politicisation and partisanship connected an land that besides divides its shops into yellow (pro-protesters) and bluish (pro-police). Even aft Ng said the garment was not political, different politician, enforcement councillor Ronny Tong, commented that he should inactive ever debar wearing black. “[We] person had atrocious experiences truthful we are afraid,” helium said. “It’s amended not to deterioration black, different radical whitethorn person a bosom onslaught portion watching the television.”

Fears athletes whitethorn beryllium silenced

As arrests proceed successful Hong Kong nether the nationalist information instrumentality and China escalates its subject drills adjacent Taiwan, the aforesaid governmental questions raised this twelvemonth look to intensify successful the led up to the 2022 Winter Games successful Beijing.

Human Rights Watch has warned that China could cancel the Olympic visas of “athletes whose opinions it doesn’t like”. The European Elite Athletes Association has besides called for the IOC to guarantee that athletes person “the close to explicit their concerns”. In July, the IOC assured media that Hong Kong and Taiwan would beryllium capable to vie successful Beijing careless of immoderate governmental tension.

Flag bearers Hsing-Chun Kuo and Yen-Hsun Lu of Team Chinese Taipei during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games
Flag bearers Hsing-Chun Kuo and Yen-Hsun Lu of Team Chinese Taipei during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Games Photograph: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Hong Kong’s main enforcement Carrie Lam, similar galore politicians, has utilized the region’s caller Olympic occurrence to assertion that it is agreed alternatively than divided. She said that Haughey “brought glory to the city”, and that Cheung “has made each of america proud”.

Lam has announced much backing for sport, and has been wide that she does not spot sporting occurrence arsenic making Hong Kong’s individuality much independent, oregon distanced from China. Lam has been staunchly against immoderate calls for boycotts of the 2022 Winter Olympics. “Thomas Bach, the IOC chairman, has repeatedly said that ‘sports is sports’,” she has said. “One should not effort to politicise sports.”

  • Naaman Zhou was a Judith Neilsen Asia Reporting chap for 2020