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Hong Kong facing AFC action if fans continue booing China anthem

Hong Kong vs. China
Hong Kong fans booed China's national anthem ahead of the friendly with Bahrain.

Disgruntled football fans run the risk of further action being taken against the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) next week as a small group continued their protest against the playing of China's national anthem.

Hong Kong meet Lebanon in the qualifying rounds of the AFC Asian Cup on Tuesday, just five days after fans again jeered the "March of the Volunteers" before the team's friendly with Bahrain on Thursday evening.

No action is likely to be taken by Asian football authorities as a result of the fans' behaviour before the Bahrain game as it was not part of an official competition.

But, having been warned by the regional body after voicing their discontent during the playing of the anthem before their AFC Asian Cup qualifying win over Malaysia last month, it seems likely the HKFA will face disciplinary action if there is a repeat by fans on Tuesday evening.

Plain clothes police attended Thursday's game at Mongkok Stadium as groups dissatisfied with China's administration of the former British colony used the game to voice their feelings.

"We were not informed about [police] action," HKFA chairman Brian Leung told the South China Morning Post.

"But the situation seemed to be under control. We did not hear too much of booing when the national anthem was played and we do hope the fans continue to come to support the Hong Kong team. This should be their primary objective."

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in July 1997 and there has been growing dissatisfaction in some quarters over how the government in Beijing administers the city of more than seven million people.

The city's representative team -- which plays in FIFA and AFC competitions after Hong Kong was granted sporting autonomy for 50 years following the return to Chinese rule -- are attempting to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup finals for the first time since 1968.

Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch

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