Fans at Hong Kong Stadium turned their backs on the Chinese national anthem prior to a World Cup qualifying match against Iran on Tuesday, bringing the long-running pro-democracy protests to the sporting world, per the Associated Press. The fans not only turned their backs, but also held up signs with the word “Boo” on them to go along with their vocal boos, as captured by the South China Morning Post:
According to an in-stadium announcement, there were 14,000 spectators at the match versus Iran, which ended in a 2-0 victory for the Iranians. The protesting fans broke out into the song “Glory to Hong Kong,” which protesters have used as an anthem for the fight for more democratic freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The chanting did not stop once the game commenced. During the match, groups of fans chanted “Fight for freedom,” while one fan raised a banner that read “Hong Kong is not China.” Officers outside the stadium subjected spectators to strict security checks in an effort to confiscate any political messages, though clearly some fans succeeded in sneaking some in anyway.
The soccer protests are linked to the ongoing demonstrations that have taken place in the South China Sea territory since June. The main spark for the protests was a proposed extradition bill that would send Hong Kong residents to China for trial. Though the government has said that it will not go forward with the bill, Hongkongers have continued their demonstrations.
Protestors are now demanding full democratic rights, as well as inquiries into police brutality and amnesty for protesters, per Al Jazeera. With this latest development, the four-month long demonstrations have now moved into the realm of sports, widening their reach while intensifying the pressure on the government to act.