Date
30 March 2017
Fans celebrate Hong Kong's scoreless draw with China but Leung chun-ying, Carrie Lam and John Tsang (inset from top left) had contrasting reactions. Photos: Reuters, Cable TV, Apple Daily, Facebook
Fans celebrate Hong Kong's scoreless draw with China but Leung chun-ying, Carrie Lam and John Tsang (inset from top left) had contrasting reactions. Photos: Reuters, Cable TV, Apple Daily, Facebook

How political correctness is killing the sporting spirit

Neither side lost in Tuesday’s World Cup Asian qualifier between China and Hong Kong.

In case you haven’t heard, the result was another scoreless draw.

There was a clear winner — political correctness — but more on that later.

More than 6,000 fans were on hand at Mong Kok Stadium to watch the cross-border rivals replicate their Oct. 1 goalless encounter and marvel at another defensive show by Hong Kong keeper Yapp Hung-fai.

After both sides squandered scoring opportunities, Yapp thwarted a late burst from Chinese striker Yu Hai and denied the mainlanders the go-ahead win in Group C.

Qatar advanced to the next round with a 3-0 thrashing of Bhutan, racking up the maximum 18 points from six matches.

But Hong Kong came away feeling like winners, too.

They have now blanked the highly fancied Chinese twice while cementing their second-running position in the group with 14 points, three clear of the mainlanders.    

That means Hong Kong have kept their qualification hopes alive.

Fans are naturally delirious. They consider a draw with China nothing less than a victory.

But not everyone in Hong Kong’s corner is cheering — or at least some people don’t want to be seen cheering the local side.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying gave the most politically neutral reaction with a blog post on his official website. 

“The World Cup qualifier match was held tonight,” he wrote from Manila where he is attending the APEC summit.

Tell me about it.

Earlier, Leung let it be known that he was going to a place where he would not be able to watch the contest.

He was mum when pressed by Hong Kong journalists to reveal which side he was on, awkwardly dodging their question if he was “afraid of Xi Jinping if you support the Hong Kong team”.

When Leung went on at some length about the match, praising the “outperformance of Hong Kong and the national team” and thanking the Hong Kong Football Association for the “arrangement of the match”, he was criticized by netizens who wondered if there really was no way he could watch it.

They were quick to ascribe political correctness to Leung’s use of “national team” to describe the Chinese side.  

Leung’s No. 2, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, also would not be drawn, saying only that Hong Kong and China “would perform well with mutual respect”.

By contrast, Financial Secretary John Tsang kept score from faraway Romania.

Tsang uploaded a Facebook picture of himself watching the match on a tablet computer in his hotel room. He captioned it “Exciting match! @Bucharest, Romania”.

The post drew more than 22,000 likes within one hour and many Hong Kong people acknowledged Tsang’s “wholehearted support” for the home team.

Food and Health Secretary Ko Wing-man chose to be perfectly non-committal.

“Being a Chinese person in Hong Kong, I support both teams,” he said.

But pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao blared a congratulatory headline (“Well Done Hong Kong Team for the Draw with China”) and perhaps best captured the sentiment of ordinary citizens.

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SC/AC/RA

EJ Insight writer

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