World Rugby apologizes for wrong graphics caption used during Chinese National Anthem played at a Hong Kong-Portugal match
Published: Nov 19, 2022 08:00 PM
China's national flag (five-star red flag) and the flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are seen in south China's Hong Kong, Oct 1, 2021. Photo:Xinhua

China's national flag (five-star red flag) and the flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are seen in south China's Hong Kong, Oct 1, 2021. Photo:Xinhua

World Rugby apologized to the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) for an error which appeared on the television broadcast of a match between the Hong Kong and Portuguese teams at the Final Qualification Tournament for Rugby World Cup 2023 on November 6, when an incorrect graphics caption was used when the Chinese National Anthem was played prior to the game, the HKRU said on Saturday.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive John Lee expressed strong dissatisfaction toward the incident, saying that HKSAR government will send letters to World Rugby and Asia Rugby to provide the official version and description of the Chinese National Anthem, urging a further investigation.

Some online video clips showed that when the Chinese National Anthem was played for the Hong Kong rugby team, the graphics caption on the broadcast was dubbed as "Glory to Hong Kong"—the song associated with social turmoil in Hong Kong in 2019.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the HKRU said it was aware that in the World Rugby television broadcast of the Hong Kong versus Portugal match at the Final Qualification Tournament for Rugby World Cup 2023 on November 6, that incorrect graphics captions were used when the PRC National Anthem was played prior to the game.

The Hong Kong men's team lined up and sang The March of the Volunteers, however on the television broadcast a graphic was super-imposed on the live shots by the World Rugby production crew incorrectly labelling the anthem as another song, the statement said.

No member of the Hong Kong team or management was aware of this issue until after the match, nor was any team member or management staff ever asked by World Rugby or its operational broadcast or production teams the name of the anthem, nor were we informed that the name of the anthem would be displayed in broadcast coverage, the HKRU said.

Once informed about the issue, HKRU staff raised it with World Rugby, the following day it was subsequently explained that this was an error by the "graphics operator."

World Rugby apologized to the HKRU for the error and has attempted to retroactively correct it on its on-demand and other released videos, the statement said.

Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism, told at a press briefing on Saturday that it was unacceptable as "our national anthem should be respected, as it represents our dignity."

Yeung said the HKSAR government will take the incident seriously and seek to confirm more details from the HKRU. We were initially told that it was the game held by World Rugby, and they corrected it immediately after they found this error. However, in any case, all Hong Kong residents won't accept the incident and we will follow up on the matter, he said.

The latest error came out after Asia Rugby and Korea Rugby Union apologized to the HKRU, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government and the Chinese central government after the organizer of the Rugby Sevens tournament in South Korea recently was strongly condemned for playing the wrong song - "Glory to Hong Kong".

Officials, lawmakers and observers in Hong Kong all stated that the error was "completely unacceptable."

The HKRU said it has since requested a detailed timeline and explanation from World Rugby, as well as a formal apology from the global body to the HKSAR government and local residents, and understands that this will be issued forthwith.

"In a short period of time, also in rugby games, there have been incidents related to the national anthem one after another. I think it's extremely difficult to accept," Yeung said.

Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, a lawmaker who represents the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication Functional Constituency in the Legislative Council, told the Global Times on Saturday that he had contacted the HKRU and urged World Rugby to follow up and clarify the issue. He also asked relevant institutions to remove all relevant videos.

Hong Kong lawmaker Elizabeth Quat told the Global Times that similar incidents occurring one after another were completely unacceptable. "It's hard to believe that the incident was an unintentional mistake," she said. Some residents expressed suspicion that local parties were responsible and in violation of the law and were seeking to shift all blame to foreign employees in an attempt to avoid being charged under the National Security Law for Hong Kong.

"I believe that the police must investigate the incident thoroughly, and the HKRU has the responsibility to safeguard the dignity of the country, apologize to the public as soon as possible, and submit a report to the government to ensure that similar incidents won't happen again," she said.

Confusion and misunderstandings occur following the misinterpretation of information. Some of the quotes or mistakes are made accidentally or based on untrue statements from unknown sources, Chu Kar-kin, a veteran current affairs commentator based in Hong Kong and a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Saturday.

"Some sources maliciously misled the public and audience with bad intentions. Search engine, audio, visual, graphics database or libraries should conduct fact checks," he said.

Any drafting or amending of Wikipedia contents should be traceable. A mechanism with fact checking or approval of contents-drafting or confirmation should be adopted, Chu said. "Any users delivering false and misleading statements based on bad intentions should be liable and punished."

Education and narration of Hong Kong images, stories and knowledge by the HKSAR government or approved bodies to the world is strongly encouraged, the expert said.

Playing or labelling the national anthem of China incorrectly is both disrespectful and hurtful to the people of Hong Kong and the nation, and the HKRU has again expressed its extreme dissatisfaction with World Rugby for this serious error, the HKRU said.