Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

‘Glory to Hong Kong’

September 20th, 2019 · No Comments · Beijing Olympics, Hong Kong

In a previous lifetime I spent four months as a temp editor for the Asian edition of the International Herald Tribune.

Many of the entries from this blog, commencing in October 2008 and continuing through January 2009 were about our experiences there.

First memory: The crowds. Second memory: How different it was from Beijing, where we had spent three weeks in the previous August at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

HK had a different spirit. A different ethos. It did not seem as uptight and severe as the capital, where the Communist Party exerts tremendous authority.

Hong Kong seemed like a place that did not belong in the same state as Beijing. It still felt a little British (from the long colonial period) and progressive and forward-looking and ready for self-determination.

Twenty years later, many people in Hong Kong, and especially college-age kids, want to see HK gain some sort of independence from Beijing, and if you want your own state, well, you are going to need a national anthem.

Hong Kong has one, and I love it. It instantly makes my list of top-10 anthems.

First, let’s listen to the Masked Orchestra playing “Glory to Hong Kong“.

Isn’t that a fine anthem? It is not an official hymn, but the optimists among the pro-democracy demonstrators resisting the heavy hand of the Chinese state hope it will be, some day.

One Hongkonger wrote in The New York Times that the “stately” tune “evoked a sense of pride and belonging”. She added: “I have been waiting for a song like ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ my whole life …”

Other versions of “Glory” can be found online, but the “Masked Orchestra” version seems to be the early leader, at least in terms of interpretation … and in terms of making a political statement at the same time the anthem is being played, and sung, with images of young people locking arms, resisting police, waving the orchid flag as they march through streets I still recognize.

The author of the song and/or lyrics has not yet been identified. It could be too dangerous if the Chinese state shows up in force some morning and arrests thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators.

One of the hallmarks of civil disobedience has been the masks worn by participants, some to fend off the debilitating stench of teargas, some in an attempt to hide their identities from the state. And that is how the musicians came to play for the “Masked Orchestra” — each is wearing some sort of protective mask, and in the final bars of the song a mist that looks like teargas wafts among the musicians.

I find it all very moving.

I have a thing for anthems, and when they are tuneful and show a connection with the spirit of a state … they become memorable and even powerful. By the second time I played “Glory to Hong Kong”, I realized I had tears in my eyes.

The idea of an anthem and some measure of freedom from Beijing … well that is bracing stuff. Incredibly brave, on the part of those who lead the mostly peaceful demonstrations.

When Hongkongers are in the streets, it must be a comfort to the student leaders of the movement to be among so many. But it does not rule out the likelihood that those leaders will be identified by Beijing and stand a good chance of spending a chunk of their youth behind bars as political prisoners.

They are revolutionaries, and governing regimes hate and fear revolutionaries — if nothing else, it could give other Chinese ideas about the all-powerful Party and its plan for eternal rule.

Here is a version of “Glory” translated into English. And they are pouring it on, now. Check the lyrics:

“Come children of our motherland; the time has come to wage a revolution; freedom and liberty belong to this land; may glory be to Hong Kong.”

This reminds me of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the moment when tanks sent to cow the anti-Soviet officials … turned about and became the first defenders of the new Russia. And that led to the subsequent self-determination that came to former Soviet satellites, such as Poland and Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Some images: The single man blocking Chinese tanks during the Tiananmen uprising in 1989. The fall of the Berlin Wall in that same year.

The former presumably was arrested and never seen again; the Berlin demonstrators got what they want.

I fear for the Hongkongers struggling for self-rule, and I also deeply respect them. In the year of 2019, let it be remembered the pro-democracy crowds brought “Glory to Hong Kong.”


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment