Hong Kong’s sports associations have been told to include “China” in their official names or risk having funding pulled, as authorities embrace nationalism after quashing democracy protests.
The Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that its member associations have until July 1 to complete the name change.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China but competes separately from the country in international sports, including at the Olympics.
Fewer than 20 of the 83 Hong Kong sports organisations listed on the Olympic Committee’s website have “China” in their names.
There is the Hong Kong China Swimming Association for example. However, Hong Kong’s football association currently has no reference to China in its name.
The demand by the city’s Olympic Committee could affect whether sports bodies get funding or take part in major competitions, the South China Morning Post reported.
The Olympic Committee said the request was in line with the former British colony’s constitutional text.
Hong Kong’s ability to compete as itself has long been a source of local pride but it is also something authorities have come to view with suspicion.
Tensions between Hong Kong and China used to surface regularly at sporting events, with local football fans known to infuriate Beijing by booing the national anthem before the move was outlawed.
Following huge and sometimes violent democracy protests in 2019, China tightened its grip on Hong Kong and made patriotism a top priority.
Many of the member associations are “using public funding from the government and using a proper organisation name should be their responsibility”, the Olympic Committee’s honorary secretary general told the Post.
The city’s Olympic Committee controls who can represent Hong Kong at events such as the Asian Games and the Olympic Games, and is led by pro-Beijing former lawmaker Timothy Fok.
Last year, Hong Kong authorities were outraged when rugby organisers in South Korea played a protest song in place of China’s national anthem.
Hong Kong police launched a probe over the incident while tournament organisers said the cause was “simple human error”.
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