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Hong Kong’s Olympic successes expose deep political fissures

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Tokyo Olympics updates

The Hong Kong Olympics workforce’s future as a separate entity from that of mainland China is safe, the territory’s Video games chief Timothy Fok mentioned, regardless of political tensions uncovered by his squad’s historic achievements over the previous week.

Siobhan Haughey, a Hong Kong swimmer, received a second silver medal in Tokyo on Friday, cementing the Video games as the town’s most profitable ever. Fencer Cheung Ka-long received the town’s first gold medal since its 1997 handover from the UK within the foil occasion.

However the euphoria over their victories shortly turned politicised when crowds within the territory celebrating Cheung’s gold booed and shouted “We’re Hong Kong” over the Chinese language nationwide anthem, which performed as he accepted his medal on the rostrum in Tokyo this week.

Police have launched an investigation and mentioned on Friday that they had arrested a 40-year-old individual, who additionally waved Hong Kong’s colonial-era flag on the scene, for insulting the nationwide anthem.

The show of resistance was a stark reminder of a robust lingering undercurrent of discontent within the Asian monetary centre, regardless of a crackdown on dissent by Beijing after anti-government protests in 2019.

China final 12 months imposed a tricky new safety legislation final 12 months on Hong Kong, with the primary individual to be convicted beneath the laws, a former waiter who rode a motorcycle right into a police line final 12 months, given a nine-year jail term on Friday.

Hong Kongers celebrated after swimmer Sionbhan Haughey received a silver medal © AP

However Fok, president of the nationwide Olympic committee of Hong Kong, mentioned he had urged athletes to disregard the controversies. There was an understanding in China that Hong Kong had “a separate identification” to the mainland and there have been no plans to combine the town’s workforce with that of its greater neighbour, he mentioned.

“They’ve [1bn] individuals, we solely have 7m. I’m very proud with this new encouragement and success. Sport shall be an important a part of the event of Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong authorities are eager to reveal the crackdown has not had an influence on the town’s vibrancy. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief govt, mentioned final week that arts and tradition within the metropolis have been “booming” and there had been no weakening of individuals’s freedoms.

The town was promised a excessive diploma of autonomy and freedom of expression after 1997. This autonomy was symbolised by Hong Kong’s proper to have its personal Olympics workforce, though it was additionally agreed that China’s nationwide anthem could be performed at medal ceremonies for the territory’s athletes.

Shushu Chen, a lecturer in sport coverage on the College of Birmingham, mentioned the mainland had proven important help for elite sport improvement in Hong Kong

“I don’t suppose the Chinese language authorities will advocate in future Olympics that Hong Kong athletes needs to be built-in beneath the primary PRC flag,” she mentioned. “That may lose the sense of identification of Hong Kong . . . I don’t suppose that’s what the Chinese language authorities is making an attempt to do.”

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the Nationwide Individuals’s Congress Standing Committee, the everlasting physique of China’s parliament, mentioned that any change was unlikely beneath “one nation, two methods”, the Chinese language authorities coverage governing Hong Kong’s autonomy from the mainland because the handover.

Hong Kong’s solely different gold medallist, windsurfer Lee Lai-shan, accepted her medal on the 1996 Atlanta Video games beneath the British Hong Kong colonial flag as “God Save The Queen” performed.

Cheung, whose mother and father have been each Chinese language nationwide league basketball gamers, is a cat lover who typically posts footage of his household’s American shorthair Zimba. “It means loads to point out to the world we are able to do it,” he mentioned. “We’re not solely a metropolis. We will battle for victory.”

Whereas Cheung made no political feedback after his win, pro-democracy teams have been fast to grab on the victory. Throughout the 2019 protests, anti-government demonstrators sang their very own anthem “Glory to Hong Kong” in buying malls. After Cheung’s ceremony, netizens substituted the Chinese language anthem for the track in viral movies exhibiting Cheung on the Tokyo podium.

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Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing camp additionally generated controversy when a lawmaker Nicholas Muk criticised one of many territory’s prime badminton gamers for sporting a black T-shirt — a color favoured by the 2019 protesters — with out displaying the Hong Kong flag.

After Muk accused him of supporting the pro-democracy motion, the participant, Angus Ng Ka-Lengthy, wore a distinct shirt to attempt to calm issues down as he additionally got here beneath assault from Chinese language netizens.

Though he was the eighth seed within the males’s singles competitors, Ng was crushed by Guatemalan shuttler Kevin Cordon, who was ranked 59th, leaving many supporters blaming Muk for distracting Ng.

“It’s most likely not true that there was no influence. I’ve been making an attempt exhausting to settle down and I wish to give attention to the competitors,” Ng mentioned after shedding. “However how can I overlook it utterly.”

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