When the Chinese National Anthem blared through the Mong Kok stadium in Hong Kong during the home team’s match against Bahrain, it was met by a roar nearly just as loud. Fans began to boo, jeer and scream as some flipped their birds.
The move comes after the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislature, incorporated a new national anthem law that aimed to make such acts punishable by prison sentences.
“I don’t care [about the law],” an 18-year-old fan told reporters from the South China Morning Post. “So what? There are thousands of people at the stadium, how will they find me and arrest me?”
Another fan who brought his five-year-old son said, “I don’t think the anthem represents Hong Kong. I don’t care if they arrest me. I just do what I think is right. I will continue to boo. If they have guts, they can arrest all of us.”
The Hong Kong government is now required to establish local legislation to deter abuse of the anthem, a move punishable by up to three years of jail time on the mainland.
Still, there were some supporters of the mainland among the 2,000-plus crowd.
“There are some pro-China supporters as well, and the aim is to mitigate any risk or breach of peace,” a police source at the match told the SCMP.
According to the paper, about a dozen fans sat by themselves on the East Stand holding both the Hong Kong and Chinese flags. It was the first time the national flag had been seen at a home game that was not being played against the national squad.