Hong Kong Olympic successes reveal deep political fissures

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Tokyo Olympic Games Updates

The future of the Hong Kong Olympic team as a separate entity from that of mainland China is secure, said Games Territory Chief Timothy Fok, despite political tensions revealed by his team’s historic achievements over the past week.

Hong Kong swimmer Siobhan Haughey won a second silver medal in Tokyo on Friday, making the Games the most successful in the city’s history. Fencer Cheung Ka-long won the city’s first gold medal since moving from the UK in 1997 in the foil event.

But the euphoria over their victories quickly became politicized when crowds across the territory celebrating Cheung’s gold booed and shouted “We are Hong Kong” over the Chinese national anthem, which sounded as it sounded. accepted his medal on the podium in Tokyo this week.

Police opened an investigation and said on Friday they arrested a 40-year-old, who also waved the colonial-era Hong Kong flag at the scene, for insulting the national anthem.

The display of resistance was a stark reminder of a strong current of discontent persisting in the Asian financial center, despite Beijing’s crackdown on dissent following the anti-government protests in 2019.

Last year, China imposed a new strict security law on Hong Kong, the first person to be sentenced under the legislation, a former waiter who rode a motorcycle in a police line last year, given a nine years in prison Friday.

Hong Kongers celebrated swimmer Siobhan Haughey’s silver medal © AP

But Fok, chairman of the Hong Kong National Olympic Committee, said he urged athletes to ignore controversies. It was understood in China that Hong Kong had “a distinct identity” from the mainland and there were no plans to integrate the city’s team with that of its bigger neighbor, he said.

“They have [1bn] people, we only have 7m. I am very proud of this new encouragement and success. Sport will be a very important part of Hong Kong’s development. “

The Hong Kong authorities are keen to demonstrate that the repression has had no impact on the city’s dynamism. Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, said last week that arts and culture in the city were “booming” and there had been no weakening of people’s freedoms.

The city was promised a high degree of autonomy and freedom of expression after 1997. This autonomy was symbolized by Hong Kong’s right to have its own Olympic team, although it was also agreed that China’s national anthem would be played at medal ceremonies for athletes in the territory. .

Shushu Chen, a senior lecturer in sports policy at the University of Birmingham, said the mainland has shown strong support for the development of elite sport in Hong Kong.

“I don’t think the Chinese government will advocate at future Olympics that Hong Kong athletes be integrated under the main PRC flag,” she said. “It will lose Hong Kong’s sense of identity. . . I don’t think that’s what the Chinese government is trying to do.

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s only delegate to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the standing body of the Chinese parliament, said any change was unlikely under “one country, two systems,” China’s policy. Chinese government governing Hong Kong’s autonomy from the mainland. since the handover.

Hong Kong’s only other gold medalist, windsurfer Lee Lai-shan, accepted her medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games under the British colonial flag of Hong Kong while “God Save The Queen” was playing.

Cheung, whose parents were both Chinese National League basketball players, is a cat lover who often posts photos of his family’s short-haired American Zimba. “It means a lot to show the world that we can do it,” he said. “We are not just a city. We can fight for victory.

While Cheung made no political comments after his victory, pro-democracy groups were quick to seize the victory. During the 2019 protests, anti-government protesters sang their own “Glory to Hong Kong” anthem in shopping malls. After the Cheung ceremony, netizens replaced the song with the Chinese anthem in viral videos showing Cheung on the Tokyo catwalk.

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Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing camp also sparked controversy when lawmaker Nicholas Muk criticized one of the territory’s top badminton players for wearing a black t-shirt – a color favored by protesters in 2019 – without display the flag of Hong Kong.

After Muk accused him of supporting the pro-democracy movement, the player, Angus Ng Ka-Long, wore a different jersey in an attempt to calm things down as he was also attacked by Chinese netizens.

Even though he was the eighth seed in the men’s singles competition, Ng was beaten by Guatemalan commuter Kevin Cordon, who was ranked 59th, leaving many supporters accusing Muk of distracting Ng.

“It’s probably not true that there was no impact. I’ve tried really hard to calm myself down and want to focus on competing,” Ng said after losing. how can I forget it completely. “

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