Chief Executive John Lee said on Monday that police will investigate whether there was a conspiracy to violate the national anthem law or other Hong Kong laws, after an incorrect song was played in its place at a rugby tournament in South Korea.
The song, which is associated with violent protests in 2019, was played as the Hong Kong sevens team prepared to play hosts South Korea in Sunday's final of the second leg of the Asian Rugby Sevens Series in Incheon.
Event organiser Asia Rugby has apologised and blamed human error, but Lee said the case was unacceptable because the national anthem is a solemn matter, and officials must follow it up seriously.
Asked how the police can probe something that took place outside of Hong Kong, he said the force will act lawfully.
"Hong Kong police will act in accordance with the law for any investigation. We will see what evidence we collect during the probe, and act accordingly," he told reporters after attending an event.
The CE said the Chief Secretary, Eric Chan, has met Korean Consular officials to strongly complain, and demanded an investigation into the matter.
In a statement, the police said its Organised Crime and Triad Bureau would look into the matter to investigate any breaches of the "National Anthem Ordinance or any other legislation of Hong Kong, including the Hong Kong National Security Law".
Asia Rugby attributed the blunder to simple human error from a junior member of the local organising committee, playing a song downloaded from the internet instead of the correct anthem, adding that the national anthem was played afterwards.
It also said it took the match footage off air immediately and replaced it with the correct anthem on its social media platforms.
The Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee (SF&OC) described the explanation as unacceptable.
It said the national anthem is a symbol of the country, and its playing and singing is a solemn ceremony.
The SF&OC said it had instructed the Hong Kong Rugby Union to conduct an in-depth probe and follow up to "prevent similar incidents from happening again.”
The government has also demanded that the union launch a detailed investigation.
Last updated: 2022-11-15 HKT 12:44