The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government announced that they will be supporting the decision to ban the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association (HKIHA) after a blunder with the national anthem in February.

They released a statement backing the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC) request for the HKIHA to produce an explanation behind the mistake and how they will improve upon it.

The incident happened before Hong Kong’s match against Iran at the  International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship Group III in Bosnia and Herzegovina when an anti-Government song linked to protests in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, in 2019 were played instead of the Hong Kong anthem.

“In the event that suspension of the HKIHA’s membership is affirmed by the SF&OC through the passage of a special resolution, the HKSAR Government will, under the premise of not affecting the athletes, consider reducing the subvention to the HKIHA correspondingly as punishment,” the statement said, according to China Daily.

“The national anthem is a symbol and sign of the country and should be respected on all occasions. 

“The HKSAR Government will impose severe sanctions for non-compliance without exception.”

Detailed instructions on flag and anthem ceremonies were issued in November last year after a similar incident occurred at a rugby sevens match in Incheon in South Korea.

Despite the row, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-Hung promised that he will advocate for funding to continue so that athletes can participate in international competitions and receive funding.

“When dealing with this incident, we see that the managing leaders of the ice hockey association did not give appropriate attention to the handling of the national anthem,” Yeung told public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong.

“This also reflects some issues with its internal management. 

“Therefore, we support the measures taken by the SF&OC to start a proceeding that may lead to the temporary suspension of the membership of the ice hockey association.”

Honorary chairman of the HKIHA is Kenneth Fok, vice-president of the SF&OC, which is led by his father Timothy, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee.

Kenneth Fok is also Legislative Councillor for the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication Functional Constituency.

Fok was appointed as honorary chairman of the HKIHA after leading the Hong Kong delegation as team leader to the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne.

He has supported the decision of the SF&OC to recommend the suspension of the HKIHA, claiming it will highlight the corporate governance issues within the association.

Yun-Hung also talked about the potential cuts in funding and what extent it may reach.

“We will not discuss in detail the spending of all the budget of the Ice Hockey Association openly,” he said.

“If we have to cut some of the budgets at the end, which we do not really want to happen.

“We will ensure that the athletes will be able to continue to participate in international competitions and also their training will not be affected.”

The ice hockey association mentioned that budget cuts will have repercussions on development and competing.

They also said that the leaders of the organisation are volunteers and unpaid.