Hong Kong athletes at the Asian Games yesterday said they are upset by violence used against pro-democracy demonstrators in the territory.
However, the athletes and their leaders also do not want to get involved in the politics of the battle for and against a fully democratic election for Hong Kong’s next leader.
Many of the younger members of the 600-strong Hong Kong team in South Korea have friends and family among the protesters who have blocked several key streets.
“I have a close friend from Hong Kong Polytechnic University who is there. She is very much against this. I was upset, I don’t want to see Hong Kong like this,” said Chan Szeting, a student and member of the women’s water polo team.
“The police fired tear gas and I think this was unnecessary, but I cannot say which side is right or wrong. I am also a bit upset,” said Toby Po Yue Kai, a member of the male water polo side and student at University of Hong Kong.
Po, who also has friends in the demonstrations, said he feared the unrest would “get worse.”
However, Hong Kong delegation officials played down the impact of the protests on the team, who have won four gold medals, five silver and 19 bronze so far.
At a press conference on the team’s performance, Hong Kong Olympic Committee secretary-general Pang Chung said: “Every country has its own problems. In this forum, we are not coming to discuss any politics.”
Deputy chef de mission Vivien Lau said: “It is not like a natural disaster with the house collapsing. It is just a bunch of people demonstrating and it is all in the commercial area, so there is no immediate danger to all of us.”
“We were not worried, but we were a little bit surprised. The athletes who have come here are focused on the competition,” Lau said.
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