Asia Rugby on Tuesday said an intern made “an innocent mistake” playing the wrong song instead of the national anthem at the Asian Rugby Sevens Series in South Korea over the weekend.
But questions remain about why the song, associated with violent protests in Hong Kong in 2019, ended up in a folder where all national anthems were stored.
The song 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.
Asia Rugby’s interim CEO, Benjamin van Rooyen, told an online press conference that the Hong Kong Rugby Union had provided the correct audio file to Asia Rugby when the Hong Kong rugby team played in Bangkok last month.
He added the Korea Rugby Union should also have on file the national anthem since Hong Kong had played in the country in July.
“What happened here is that Korea Rugby downloaded a version from the internet and had it in a folder, a zip folder, and that was the wrong one,” he told the press conference.
“Unfortunately, what I understand from Korea Rugby was that in the zip folder, there was a song – the song that was played – the wrong one, [it] was in the folder and it was never deleted,” he said, adding it was an intern who played it by mistake.
“This was somebody who was provided with a song…and somebody pressed play. That person has no understanding of the politics of the world.
“I don’t think there were any ulterior motives in any of this. This was a simple human error.”
Van Rooyen said Hong Kong police had not been in touch, but he had learnt that officers had contacted the Hong Kong Rugby Union.
He added staff members have been told not to search for anthems online from now on, and that Asia Rugby will in future sign agreements with local unions to say they would only play audio files provided by Asia Rugby.
The Hong Kong Rugby Union in a statement said it accepted this was an unintentional error, but that “it has caused significant harm to the team and people of Hong Kong”.
“Future errors of this type shall necessitate the team’s immediate withdrawal from competition,” the statement said.