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Opinion: 'Glory be to thee, Hong Kong!'

Demonstrators hold up lights from their phones during a rally organized by Hong Kong mothers in support of extradition law protesters, in Hong Kong on July 5, 2019.
Hector Retamal
/
AFP via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold up lights from their phones during a rally organized by Hong Kong mothers in support of extradition law protesters, in Hong Kong on July 5, 2019.

This is "Glory to Hong Kong." Singing this song, or listening to it, or merely quoting the lyrics in conversation, could soon get people in Hong Kong sent to prison. Even for life.

"Glory to Hong Kong" has lyrics that declare: "Break now the dawn, liberate our Hong Kong / May people reign, proud and free, now and evermore / Glory be to thee, Hong Kong!"

Hong Kong, of course, was returned to China from British rule in 1997. "Glory to Hong Kong" was written during the 2019 Hong Kong protests by a pop-rock musician who wishes only to be known as "Thomas dgx yhl." He told Hong Kong's Stand News website that he was inspired by anthems in composing the song, including "God Save the King" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

By the way: Stand News was shut a year after running the interview.

This week Hong Kong's appeals court Judge Jeremy Poon ruled that "Glory to Hong Kong" should not be performed, broadcast, or reproduced.

A spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs approved, saying, "It is only legitimate and necessary for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to stop anyone from using and disseminating relevant songs to incite secession and insult the national anthem."

But Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International's China director, told us, "Singing a protest song should not be a crime. It fundamentally violates international human rights."

"Glory to Hong Kong" has already been banned from Hong Kong's schools. And a man was arrested outside the city's British consulate in 2022 for playing the song on a harmonica after the death of Queen Elizabeth.

The court has also suggested that internet companies might, "stop facilitating the acts being carried out on their platforms."

So far, internet companies have not removed "Glory to Hong Kong" from their platforms. After this week's court ruling, do you think they would risk losing the right to do business there?

But you might wonder, too, if trying to stop "Glory to Hong Kong" from being sung and heard will only make the song more compelling—and powerful.

People who are barred from assembling to sing the song in public could begin to whisper the lyrics to one another, urgently, from behind their hands. They might tell one another, in hushed, urgent voices, "Our voice grows evermore: / For Hong Kong, may Glory reign!"

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.