Hong Kong Athletic Association Turns Around to Face Chong Li Again
Hong Kong – The three members of the Hong Kong Athletic Association have announced that they will once again turn around to face disgraced former Kumite champion Chong Li.
Their decision comes after 25 years of keeping their backs turned to Li as punishment for his having killed a competitor during a fight.
“We’ve determined that he has been punished enough,” HKAA executive director Wan Ai Long said.
Li faced Chuan Ip Mung in the semifinals of the 1988 Kumite.
Mung landed the first shots of the fight–a couple sharp jabs–and then followed up with leg kicks and a two-fisted strike to Li’s neck. Li quickly recovered and then took control of the rest of the fight.
The crowd reportedly exchanged nervous glaces for the next 45 seconds while Li pummeled Mung, until the kung fu fighter’s body went limp. With a swift motion, Li snapped Mung’s neck.
Mung, a 37-year-old construction worker and father of three, died instantly.
Following the lead of executive director Long, all living members of the HKAA immediately stood up and turned away from Chong Li. They remained in that position for the next quarter century.
This was the second time Li had killed an opponent. Five years earlier in the previous Kumite, he reportedly kicked a man in the throat and then stood there and watched him die.
“We had already issued Chong Li a strongly worded warning after the first murder,” Long said. “When he decided to ignore our counsel, we had no choice but to publicly shame him.”
For his part, Chong Li said the death was accidental, the result of a scheduling issue.
“That night I had Wednesday bible study, which started at 7:00 pm,” Li said. “My fight was scheduled for 6:30, but earlier fights went long, so you know.”
Li said he knew that if wanted time to shower and then catch the bus across town to the only Korean church in the city, he had to finish his fight fast–yet in his zeal he finished it too fast and ended up killing the Guizhou Province native.
Li ended up missing the bible study anyway.
The punishment was not without controversy. Veteran Kumite participant Paco said the HKAA had been sending mixed messages to Li regarding their stance on in-ring murder.
“Five years earlier when Chong Li kicked that poor bastard right in the throat,” Paco said, “the HKAA was all smiles and handshakes. They say now that they didn’t like it, but you can’t fake that kind of joy.”
Paco listed a number of ways the HKAA either explicitly or implicitly encouraged fighters to kill other fighters. No rules specifically prohibiting murder. No ringside paramedics or doctors. A referee whose roles and responsibilities were unclear to fighters, spectators, and the referee himself.
Most egregious, in Paco’s opinion, was the fact that HKAA members required one unidentified competitor to demonstrate a “death touch” before he could even compete.
“It’s called ‘death touch’ for a reason,” Paco said. “Then later they’re all, ‘murder is bad.’ It’s like, make up your mind.”
Others, however, felt the HKAA’s punishment wasn’t strong enough.
“Having them turn their back on you is shameful, but is Chong Li even capable of feeling shame?” Leonard Guy, another competitor, asked rhetorically.
Guy pointed out that US federal agents were in the crowd that fateful night, as well as several Hong Kong policemen, including two who were recovering from Tazer shocks.
“I know the cops joined in with everybody else when we all got up and turned our backs on Chong,” Guy said, “but I can’t help but feel they should’ve done more.”
Upon being told of the HKAA’s decision during a recent workout breaking ice blocks at the top of a mountain in rural Korea, Li said, “I was being punished? I just thought they were praying.”
Then he jumped around with his hands in the air while a crowd of onlookers yelled, “Chong Li! Chong Li! Chong Li!”