HK trail runner stripped of Chinese award nom for comments ‘harmful to motherland’s unification’

Trail runner Wong Ho-chung. Screengrab via YouTube.
Trail runner Wong Ho-chung. Screengrab via YouTube.

A firefighter and champion trail runner has been stripped of his nomination for an outdoor sports title in the mainland for “publishing online speech harmful to the motherland’s unification.”

On Tuesday, HK01 reported that it was announced that Wong Ho-chung had been nominated in the “cross-country runner of the year” category for a major outdoor sports prize called the Outdoor Golden Rhino Awards.

But in a statement posted on Wednesday night, the organizing committee for the awards said that in an interview with Wong, he requested that he wanted his name to appear alongside “Hong Kong, China,” and that they had an audio recording of him doing so. The organizing committee added that it had decided to withdraw his nomination because of comments he posted online that were seen as “harmful to the motherland’s unification.”

“Whenever the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the motherland are sacred and inviolable, resolutely maintaining the motherland’s unification is the incumbent responsibility of each of our citizens of the People’s Republic of China. National interests are above all else!” said the organization (which, we remind you, is a body that hands out sports prizes, and not a Red Guard informing on their parents for being “counter-revolutionaries,” as that quote might suggest).

The statement goes on to say that the awards will “continue to uphold patriotism, fairness, and professionalism when recording China’s outdoor sports.”

The statement did not make clear what the offending comments were, however, Wong has previously appeared in the media in connection with Hong Kong’s long-running protest movement, which has been branded a “separatist” plot on the mainland.

On the night of the July 21 attack on protesters at Yuen Long MTR station, Wong and his wife — a former nurse — drove to the station to treat the injured and help people escape from the white-shirted pro-Beijing mob who had turned up to assault them.

In an interview with Ming Pao published days after the incident, Wong said: “As a normal citizen, or as a firefighter at that particular moment, I couldn’t just watch and do nothing anymore, I had to help, otherwise I will not forgive myself for turning my back on my conscience.”

Wong is well-known in the SAR trail running circuit, and his accolades include winning, or finishing in the top 10, in trail races in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Morocco, and the U.S.

Last year he came sixth in the Ultra Trail Mount Blanc (UTMB), an ultramarathon that begins and ends in Chamonix in the French Alps, and consists of 106-mile (171-kilometer) footrace circumnavigating Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe. The SCMP reported at the time that it was the highest finish for a Hongkonger at the UTMB ever.

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