Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande face an investigation after the club’s fans allegedly unfurled a banner in an Asian Champions League match on Tuesday describing Hong Kong’s independence movement as “poison” and carrying the words: “Annihilate British dogs.”
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said it was looking into the incident, which occurred in the latter stages of Guangzhou’s 6-0 win over Hong Kong champions Eastern.
“The AFC is waiting for the match commissioner’s report and then the AFC will make a full assessment of the facts,” a spokesperson for the confederation told reporters.
The report was expected to be received by the continental body yesterday, with a decision on any further action due to be taken over the next few days.
The banner, which stated: “Annihilate British dogs, extinguish Hong Kong independence poison,” was displayed in the section where about 700 visiting Guangzhou fans were seated.
Tensions were high in the run-up to the game at Mongkok Stadium with additional security measures in place to ensure Guangzhou fans who bought tickets online could not be seated with supporters of the home team.
Hong Kong officials have been sensitive to any prospect of trouble at sporting events featuring Chinese teams since street protests ground parts of the territory to a halt in late 2014.
Similar restrictions were put in place when China’s national team played against Hong Kong in World Cup qualifying in November 2015.
The controversy arose on the same evening that fans of Kawasaki Frontale angered supporters in South Korea by allegedly raising a Japanese wartime flag during their meeting with Suwon Bluewings in the continental club competition.
Officials traveling with the club confiscated the flag, used by the Imperial Japanese Army until the end of World War II, from two men, while other supporters were escorted from the stadium, according to Kyodo News.
A Suwon Bluewings official told reporters: “As soon as the game began, one of supporters from Kawasaki Frontale held up and spread a Japanese wartime flag, which he had hidden in his bag.”
“Security guards restrained him as soon as they spotted the flag. After the match, Suwon filed a complaint to the AFC, since their regulations prohibit any actions supporting political issues or provocations that might cause controversy,” the official said. “Suwon presumes that the AFC would soon take measures regarding the issue.”
The AFC has been clamping down on instances of political provocation.
Taiwan’s Chinese Taipei Football Association was fined US$5,000 in June last year after fans displayed a banner calling for Taiwanese independence at an Asian Cup qualifying match against Cambodia in Kaohsiung.
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