I was watching a video from Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper, and they mentioned the phrase in question as such: “港鐵就射個三分波 叫我們問政府”.

My guess is that 三分波 refers to an action in some sport, possibly football or basketball since “波” means “ball” in Cantonese. However, I do not understand which action it refers to, as well as its extended meaning which was its intended application.

Is it a common phrase in Cantonese? How would Cantonese speakers use the phrase beyond its literal meaning?

The link to the news report is as follows: https://hk.news.appledaily.com/local/realtime/article/20191230/60431189

3 Answers 3


“港鐵就射個三分波 叫我們問政府”

MTR just shot a three-pointer, told us to ask the government

"射三分波" is obviously a basketball term.

It is not a common term, but a great use of metaphor.

Imagine: The MTR spokesman was surrounded by reporters asking him tough questions, just like a basketball player surrounded by opposing team's guards who wouldn't let him break free.

To get away, that player can choose to drive right through them, (talk his way out) or get rid of the ball and shoot a three pointer instead (The metaphor is "throw a three-pointer" not "score a three-pointer") Throw the question to the government's direction hoping the reporters would leave him alone.

People who like sports often use sport terms metaphorically. For example, compare a business gamble that yielded great result to a "home-run".

Hong Kong people like sports too. If you say "He is yellow-carded by his girlfriend" people would understand that you mean "he got a (break-up) warning from his girlfriend"

  • A very interesting metaphor indeed!
    – Axel Tong
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 15:06
  • 1
    another saying can be 港鐵射返個波俾政府 - MTR passes the ball to government.
    – Ray
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 10:02

射個三分波 = shoot a three-pointer / three-point shot

The phrase gets about 13,500 results on Google's verbatim search.


It is a reference/meme to an old Announcement in the Public Interest (a.k.a. Public Service Announcement) regarding television programme regulations.

(In a local diner)

(Sports commentator in the TV) 電視機:「即刻轉身射個三分波啊,又反超前一分喇!」

(For a brief moment, a basketball can be seen in the TV screen)

(Audience) 觀眾:「哎呀!」

  • I do see how it could refer to the PSA, but in this case isn’t it irrelevant to the phrase’s meaning, given the aforementioned metaphorical usage?
    – Axel Tong
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 4:41
  • 1
    You are not answering OP's question at all.
    – Ray
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 10:01

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