Chinese netizens reacted furiously to the news that Guangzhou Evergrande face sanctions for an offensive banner displayed in the stands in a match in Hong Kong this week.
The Chinese champions could face a fine and have to play matches behind closed doors after the Asian Football Confederation charged the team with discrimination and spectator misconduct.
Fans unfurled a banner reading “Annihilate British dogs, Extinguish Hong Kong independence poison” in the Champions League match against Hong Kong champions Eastern on Tuesday, the latest incident of political tensions between the mainland and its special administrative region being expressed in the football stands.
And judging by online reaction in China, few had a problem with the banner.
A poll on Sina, one of the country’s largest web portals, asked readers if they felt Guangzhou fans had done anything wrong. Less than 20 per cent of the 3,000-plus respondees said yes.
The poll attracted 5,000-odd comments, with the most popular overwhelmingly in favour of the fans’ action.
“First, the home fans displaying the former colonial flag is not a political symbol?” read the top-rated comment, from a reader in Fujian province.
“Second, the home team fans booing the national anthem is not wrong?
“Third, giving visiting fans the middle finger during the national anthem is not insulting?
“Please answer AFC! Let’s also hear from Chinese Football Association chairman Cai Zhenhua!!!”
A Hong Kong colonial-era flag was hoisted by an Eastern fan during the game, while the national anthem of China has regularly been booed at recent international games in Mong Kok Stadium.
Chinese fans land Guangzhou Evergrande in hot water for ‘annihilate British dogs, extinguish Hong Kong independence poison’ banner
Many said the AFC “should not interfere in China’s affairs”, a common line wheeled out by China’s government when accused of human rights violations and the like by foreign powers.
“Get out of China you brutes,” said another acclaimed comment. “Hong Kong ‘chop suey’ boo the national anthem, are you so righteous? … [when] you are insulting the dignity of the country, what’s wrong with fighting back?”
A popular opinion was that Evergrande fans were being good patriots.
“The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China states that every Chinese citizen has the right and obligation to safeguard the dignity and interests of the State,” said one commenter.
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