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‘Glory to Hong Kong': The anthem of a protest movement

Screenshot from Youtube.

The following post is the English version of a Chinese feature story published on the Stand News, a Hong Kong independent news outlet, published on 11 September 2019. It is published on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

1 October is the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. While the Hong Kong government is preparing for the official ceremony, tens of thousands of Hongkongers are performing a new protest song in the streets and in shopping malls across the city.

The song, “Glory to Hong Kong”, has been dubbed Hong Kong's anthem by netizens and many different versions have been circulating online. Below is a classical orchestra presentation of the protest song presented by a group of Hong Kong musicians and artists dressed as protesters:

The song was first released to the public on 31 August and went viral soon after as the lyrics captured the sentiment and spirit of the protests [Note: The English version below is copied from the officially released translation]

何以 這土地 淚再流
何以 令眾人 亦憤恨
昂首 拒默沉 吶喊聲 響透
盼自由 歸於 這裡
何以 這恐懼 抹不走
何以 為信念 從沒退後
何解 血在流 但邁進聲響透
建自由 光輝香港
在晚星 墜落徬徨午夜
迷霧裡 最遠處吹來 號角聲
捍自由 來齊集這裡 來全力抗對
勇氣智慧 也永不滅
黎明來到 要光復 這香港
同行兒女 為正義 時代革命
祈求民主 與自由 萬世都不朽
我願榮光歸香港

We pledge: No more tears on our land,
In wrath, doubts dispell’d we make our stand.
Arise! Ye who would not be slave again:
For Hong Kong, may Freedom reign!
Though deep is the dread that lies ahead,
Yet still, with our faith, on we tread.
Let blood rage afield! Our voice grows evermore:
For Hong Kong, may Glory reign!
Stars may fade, as darkness fills the air,
Through the mist a solitary trumpet flares:
“Now to arms! For Freedom we fight, with all might we strike.
With valour, wisdom both we stride!”
Break now the dawn, liberate our Hong Kong,
In common breath: Revolution of our times!
May people reign, proud and free, now and ever more,
Glory be to thee, Hong Kong!

The composer behind the city’s anthem is a local musician in his twenties known simply as “Thomas”. He is a member of a local band, and although he has composed many pop-rock songs before, this is his first classical piece.

The idea behind the song was to create a piece that could capture the spirit of Hong Kong protesters and united them. The composer looked to other national anthems and battle music, including Battle Hymn of the Republic and Gloria in Excelsis Deo, as a reference for his song.

On 26 August, Thomas released his demo on the Reddit-liked LIHKG forum, inviting users to give feedback.  He amended the melody and lyrics such as adding protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of the times” and asked LIHKG members to help recording the song. Three days later, more than 20 LIHKG members appeared at a studio for the recording.

Through the song, the composer wants to deliver the following message:

香港人正在打的,是一場捍衛人民良知自由公義的持久戰,戰場唔單止喺街頭,唔再係立法會入面一條條例撒唔撒,而係思想上、道德價值上,有一大班香港人唔再係利益行先,發現有啲嘢比金錢重要,甚至比性命更重要。

Hong Kong people is now in a battle in defense of people’s conscience, justice and freedom. It will be a long battle and the battlefield is not restricted to the streets, nor in the Legislative Council over a certain law. It is about people’s values and morality. Hong Kong people are no longer defined by utilitarian interests, there is something more important than money and even above life.

Thomas has taken part in a majority of the protests over the past two months but he was not on the front lines. He sees music as his best protest weapon:

音樂係一樣好重要的工具,好似前蘇聯,佢哋係控制音樂控制得好嚴謹,因為佢知道音樂好容易鼓動到人心,比起文字、口號、圖片,更有感染力。

Music is a very important tool. In former USSR, the government had strict control over music because it knew that music could connect people’s hearts and touch people more effectively than words, slogans and images.

Since its initial release, tens of thousands of people have participated in flash mob performances in major shopping malls all across Hong Kong. Below is one of the performances at TaiKoo City Plaza on 9 September:

When the Chinese national anthem was played at the World Cup qualifier match against Iran on 10 September, it was booed. During a break, Hong Kong football fans sang “Glory to Hong Kong” instead:

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