This week's blog is authored by Catherine Li, a Hong Kong artivist in Britian.
Four years have passed since the remarkable date of 9th June 2019, which many consider the start of the movement in 2019 when one million people took to the streets to protest against the extradition bill. As of this date, however, almost 11,000 people who have participated in the movement have been arrested and almost 3,000 charged.
An air of terror has loomed over the land of Hong Kong ever since the implementation of the National Security Law in June 2020. Freedom of the press and any form of expression are gone. A recent example of an oppressed form of expression would be the court injunction application raised by the Hong Kong government on banning the song Glory to Hong Kong. This song was written by Hongkongers and is regarded not only as a protest song but also as Hong Kong’s true national anthem that belongs to the people.
On 6th June 2023, the Hong Kong government announced that they had applied for a court injunction to prohibit people from broadcasting or distributing the song Glory to Hong Kong. In the eyes of the Hong Kong government, this song was mistakenly played as Hong Kong’s national anthem in a few international sport competitions last year, whenever the team of Hong Kong won the event. In the eyes of pro-democracy Hongkongers, myself included, the playing of this song was most welcome.
After failed attempts of requesting Google to take down the song, the government’s next attempt to eradicate the online presence of this song should not be surprising. It simply shows just how cowardly this dictatorship behaves.
Despite the temper tantrum of the authorities, the Glory to Hong Kong topped the iTunes charts in both Hong Kong and Canada a few days after the news of the potential ban was released. The more a song of the people is banned, the more the people will make the song heard.
A final decision regarding the injunction application was supposed to be made on 12th June, but has now been postponed to 21st July due to a lack of case clarification by the Hong Kong Department of Justice. It is funny how ill-prepared our law-governing department was for a formal injunction application, demonstrating how incapable yet also desperate they were to suppress the spreading of this song.
Unfortunately, despite the postponement, the news of this court injunction has still achieved its fear effect somehow. Days after the injunction was filed, some versions of Glory to Hong Kong that were part of the list in the injunction were taken down from music streaming platforms and YouTube. The government included 32 YouTube videos in their court injunction list, and one of them, the most popular orchestral music video of this song on YouTube, has now disappeared. There were also a few days that the official versions of Glory to Hong Kong, published by the original owner DGX, were not on any streaming platforms at all, including Spotify and Apple Music. They are now available to listen to online again following DGX's claim that it has fixed some technical issues it was having with streaming platforms. However, this phenomenon illustrates that as public censorship commences, people’s self-censorship also starts — and that is undoubtedly what the big brother effect wants to achieve.
My YouTube cover of Glory to Hong Kong, which is an alternative version with English lyrics rather than Cantonese, has over one million views and is also listed in the injunction application. I have never considered taking it down. I have read a lot of interesting comments on my video from around the world ever since its release. There were people from the US who admired the courage and bravery of Hongkongers, people who teared up in solidarity with our fight for freedom and democracy. How could I possibly remove a piece of powerful artwork that informs the world about the reality in Hong Kong?
The performing arts are such soft yet powerful ways to get messages across, especially when living under an authoritarian regime. I am a firm supporter of human rights and my freedom of expression and creation. It is such a basic universal right that it is almost ridiculous that I am writing about it at this moment, but what is not ridiculous in Hong Kong when it comes to the topic of human rights and freedom these days anyway?
Being an “artivist”, a person who uses arts to cultivate awareness and motivate change, I encourage the world to listen to this song which is threatening to our totalitarian regime, to learn about the determination and journey of Hongkongers.