Hong Kong sports officials have been made responsible for the correct display of the country's flag and anthem under new guidelines ©Getty Images

Hong Kong's Ice Hockey Federation could be stripped of funding and recognition after an anthem closely associated with democracy protests in 2019 was played at an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship match in Sarajevo last month.

"Glory to Hong Kong", a song associated with the 2019 democracy protest, was briefly played instead of the Chinese national anthem "March of the Volunteers", at Hong Kong’s match against Iran in IIHF World Championship Group III.

An apology was issued over the public address system after Hong Kong won the match 11-1, but the anthem incident was "strongly deplored" by the Hong Kong Government (HKSAR).

"Reiterating its strong disapproval of the mistake, the Government stressed that it will not tolerate irregularities, and will definitely set out punishment," an HKSAR statement said.

A preliminary report by the Hong Kong Olympic and Sports Federation (SF&OC) made to the HKSAR said that the team was "clearly not in compliance with the requirements".

In a statement, the HKSAR said it will "examine the report in a serious manner" before discussing the next steps with the SF&OC.

The report into the incident had accused Hong Kong's ice hockey officials of insufficient steps to check that the correct anthem and flags were in place for the protocol ceremonies.

"Despite persistent questioning, [the association] has been evasive and failed to address such questions … It is therefore strongly believed they did not perform their duty in accordance with the guidelines," the report added.

The investigation conceded that IIHF officials ignored requests to check that the correct anthem was in place but that Hong Kong team officials should have made a "more robust request."

Under new guidelines, Chinese sports officials are required to present event organisers with a recording of the anthem and a correct flag.

Chinese Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Ji Ping had suggested that, in this case, IIHF staff may have "inadvertently" downloaded the wrong song.

Meanwhile, SF&OC vice-president Pui Kwan-kay demanded that the Google modify its key words to ensure that the Chinese national anthem appeared in searches.

Detailed instructions on flag and anthem ceremonies were issued in November last year after a similar incident occurred at a rugby sevens match in Incheon, South Korea.

A document entitled "Guidelines on Handling the Playing of the National Anthem and Raising of the Regional Flag for Hong Kong Athletes and Teams Engaging in International Sports Events" was produced by the SF&OC in consultation with HKSAR.

The document stated that the guidelines were introduced "to ensure proper respect is afforded to our National Anthem and regional Flag at international sports events".

Sports officials were instructed to "observe and follow with strict compliance".

The dossier also includes instructions on what to do if the wrong anthem is played. 

"The team leader should alert his team members immediately and lead the team members to use their hands to display the sign of "T" for expressing objection to the error made and call for a halt to the proceedings for immediate correction."

The guidelines also specify that if the problem is not rectified, "the team leader should lead the full team and/or athlete(s) to leave the ceremonial venue".

Possible sanctions for Hong Kong sports federations include suspension of membership by SF&OC and suspension of subvention or funding support from the Government. 

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 but there have been reports that those displaying the old Hong Flag from when the territory was under British rule have been arrested.