Banned anthem 'Glory to Hong Kong' gets global airing on protest anniversary

Rallies mark the first tear gas attack on protesters outside the city's legislature in 2019
By Raymond Cheng, Wu Sui Lam and Amelia Loi for RFA Cantonese, Chen Zifei for RFA Mandarin
Banned anthem 'Glory to Hong Kong' gets global airing on protest anniversary Dozens of people sang “Glory to Hong Kong” outside the main railway station in Taipei, Taiwan, on Monday.
Credit: Zhong Guangzheng

Exiled protesters have been singing the banned anthem 'Glory to Hong Kong' in cities around the world to mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the 2019 mass protest movement, which falls on Monday.

The song, which has sparked a police investigation after organizers played it in error at recent overseas sporting fixtures, was regularly sung by crowds of unarmed protesters during the 2019 protests, which ranged from peaceful demonstrations for full democracy to intermittent, pitched battles between “front-line” protesters and armed riot police.

Dozens of people gathered in the democratic island of Taiwan on Monday in a flash-mob performance outside Taipei's main railway station, with many more singing along in the surrounding crowd.

Several other flash mobs gathered to sing the song across Taiwan, including in the central city of Taichung, and Taipei's Ximending district.

Symbol of resistance

It was banned in 2020 as Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the city, and the Hong Kong government last week applied for a High Court injunction to prevent its performance or dissemination in the city, including online.

Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong, who took part in the Taichung event, said the song is a symbol of ongoing resistance by Hong Kongers.

"The Hong Kong government banned 'Glory to Hong Kong,' and wants to ban anyone from playing it, and suddenly, a whole lot of people are buying this song on iTunes," Wong said. "Hong Kongers scattered all over the world are using it as a means of resistance."

Sky Fung, secretary-general of the exile group Hong Kong Outlanders, said the song belongs to the people of Hong Kong.

"By [singing it], we want to encourage or remind our friends in Taiwan in the hope that what happened in Hong Kong won't be repeated in Taiwan."

"Everyone knows that Hong Kong was once one of the freest places, yet today we don’t even have the freedom to sing this song," Fung said.

Several people in the crowd had luggage with them, and appeared to be visiting the island. They declined to be photographed or interviewed for fear of political reprisals.

“Glory to Hong Kong” calls for freedom and democracy rather than independence, but was nonetheless deemed in breach of the law due to its "separatist" intent, officials and police officers said at the start of an ongoing citywide crackdown on public dissent and peaceful political activism.

Show of solidarity

A Taiwan resident who gave only the surname Sun said he had come along to show solidarity with Hong Kongers.

"Today we are standing up to support the people of Hong Kong, who have suffered a lot in the past few years, to the extent that they can't even sing [certain songs]," Sun said. "I think the whole world finds the Hong Kong government's lack of human rights [protections] unacceptable."

Fu Tong, a Hong Konger who attended the event, said Hong Kongers overseas need to use their voices to speak out for those who can't, who remain in Hong Kong.

"Some people say we are for Hong Kong independence, but I want to say that we are in pursuit of freedom and democracy, just like you," Fu Tong said. "We weren't suppressed because we wanted independence but because we wanted freedom and democracy."

Demonstrators in Toronto, Canada, rally Sunday to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the 2019 mass protest movement in Hong Kong. Credit: Hu Huilan

He said Taiwan's 23 million people should take heed and not believe the Communist Party's proposal to "unify" Taiwan using the "one country, two systems" model it uses to rule Hong Kong.

"Don't believe China's promises, don't believe in 'one country, two systems', and please use your votes to protect Taiwan," he said.

London, Toronto protests

In London, protesters gathered in Parliament Square at the weekend to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2019 protest movement, and again in Piccadilly Circus on Monday evening to sing "Glory to Hong Kong," which is regarded by many as Hong Kong's "true national anthem."

Protesters in Toronto also took up the anthem, with protesters calling on people not to forget the protest movement in exile.

"A lot of Hong Kongers took to the streets peacefully in 2019 to express their demands, but sadly the government didn't respond to their calls," a participant who gave only the nickname Jenny told Radio Free Asia.

"Four years have gone by, and the political crackdown has only gotten more serious ... so Hong Kongers living in Canada have a responsibility to turn out so as not to forget June 12, and also to think about what we can do in the future," she said.

The use of tear gas and other forms of violence to contain the June 12 protests, which began peacefully outside the Legislative Council, was condemned by rights group Amnesty International at the time as a violation of international law.

Since then, more than 10,000 people have been arrested under public order and "rioting" offenses for taking part in the movement, of whom around 2,300 have been prosecuted.

A Hong Konger who attended the Toronto rally, who gave only the nickname Tom, said this is his second anniversary rally.

"My heart is heavy, because the political environment in Hong Kong is getting more and more restrictive," he said. "I have a responsibility ... to let everyone know that we haven't given up, and that our ultimate goal is to restore Hong Kong [to the way it used to be]."

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.


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