Protests drowning the world: Hong Kong’s protesters national anthem

11Nov 2019
By Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Protests drowning the world: Hong Kong’s protesters national anthem

“Glory to Hong Kong” has become the new theme song of the months-long protests against the Hong Kong government and China.

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters boo the Chinese national anthem at a soccer match on September 10, 2019

By Jen Kirby and Abiola Aminat Adepoju

In an online video, protesters in riot gear sing and play instruments. They have violins tucked under chins covered with masks, drumsticks swinging in black-gloved hands. And together, in Cantonese, they belt out the soundtrack to the Hong Kong resistance: a new, if unofficial, national anthem.

“Glory to Hong Kong” (Or “Glory be to thee, Hong Kong”) has become the rallying cry of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, one that’s being sung in unison by crowds in malls and even at a soccer game this week. It’s the latest act of opposition by demonstrators, who for months have been resisting creeping Chinese authority in the autonomous territory, and it may be one of the greatest signs yet of just how cohesive the resistance really is.

An anonymous user with the name “Thomas dgx yhl” posted the song and lyrics at the end of August to LIHKG, an online forum that’s a bit like Reddit and a popular way for protesters to communicate. He’s believed to be the composer and, according to the New York Times, he asked other users on the forum to record themselves singing the tune:

He collected audio versions via Google Drive, and assembled them together to make it sound as though a choir were singing. He adjusted the lyrics based on suggestions in the forum.

The anthem runs just a couple of minutes long. “We pledge: no more tears on our land,” it begins. “In wrath, doubts dispell’d we make our stand. Arise! Ye who would not be slaves again: for Hong Kong, may freedom reign!”

The song has spread since then, including that popular video of a riot-gear-clad chorus and orchestra playing the song, interspersed with scenes from the months of Hong Kong protests. (Here’s the version with English subtitles.)

The anthem may have spread online, but demonstrators have blasted the resistance theme song out in public. At a World Cup qualifying soccer game on Tuesday in Hong Kong, for example, crowds booed the Chinese national anthem and sang “Glory to Hong Kong” instead.

Crowds have also gathered in the hundreds and thousands this week to sing all over the city. In some cases it’s led to conflict: At Hong Kong’s busy commercial center known as the International Financial Center, or IFC, pro-Beijing counterprotesters descended on the mall, waving Chinese flags and singing the Chinese national anthem. That led to a literal sing-off, with workers and protesters drowning out the pro-China activists.

“The song spells out our heartfelt feelings,” a 33-year-old man who joined in the singing this week told the Guardian. “It is a song that stands for our fight.”

“Glory to Hong Kong” is another rejection of China’s influence

The lyrics are very national anthem-y — “For Hong Kong may freedom reign!” goes one line— but the song also speaks to the untenable situation the territory finds itself in.

After taking over Hong Kong in a war in the 1800s, Britain returned it to China in 1997 with an important stipulation: The city would partly govern itself for 50 years before fully falling under Beijing’s control. So until 2047, the expectation was that the city and the mainland would operate under the principle known as “one country, two systems.”

But in recent years, Beijing has persistently tried to exert its influence over Hong Kong and control it more tightly. The controversial extradition bill that initially sparked these protests in June became an example of this.

The bill would have allowed for case-by-case extraditions to countries that lack formal extradition treaties with Hong Kong, most notably mainland China. Critics worried that Beijing would take advantage of this law to arbitrarily detain Hong Kong’s citizens, such as those who openly dissent against the Chinese government or advocate for human rights.

But as protests intensified — and as the government and police cracked down on the movement — the resistance morphed into something much larger: a fight to preserve democracy in Hong Kong. Just last week, in fact, Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government formally withdrew the extradition law after months of refusing to do so. At that point, many protesters simply said: “too little, too late.”

“Glory to Hong Kong,” then, is an expression of demonstrators’ fight to preserve democracy and its unique status within China for as long as they possibly can. The song recognizes the tremendous challenge they face. The odds that protesters can fend off China forever or win some of their demands — such as universal suffrage — are extraordinarily low. “Though deep is the dread that lies ahead,” one line reads, “Yet still, on our faith, on we tread.”

The Chinese government largely ignored the Hong Kong protests when they first began in June. But its leadership has grown increasingly impatient with the continued unrest, using harsher rhetoric against demonstrators and waging a disinformation campaign via tightly controlled, state-run media to discredit the movement.

The country is also fast-approaching a hugely important date: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1. President Xi Jinping does not want the major celebration marred by scenes of protests against his government. The increasingly tense and sometimes violent demonstrations were already testing China’s resolve.

Crowds of Hong Kong’s citizens peacefully singing their own anthem is one of the more powerful acts of defiance against Beijing. Which means China is likely to continue to push back — and for the chorus of dissent to grow even louder.

From the Aba Women's riots of 1929 to the 2012 occupy Nigeria riots against the removal of fuel subsidy; protests have left powerful marks upon Nigeria.

Protests have been used all over the world for centuries as a tool for people to express their frustrations and demand for change.

Today is no exception. Currently, many protests are going on in several countries around the world such as Chile, Lebanon, Hong Kong and so many others.

So what are the causes of these global protests? Here's an analysis of the protests and the motivations behind them.
Hong Kong protests.

The protests began in June when an extradition bill was proposed by the government. The bill contained a new law that would mean that Hong Kong residents would be tried in China.

The proposed bill intends to change the current arrangement of Hong Kong being a semi-autonomous region of China with its legal system. However, what started as a protest against the bill has turned into a pro-democracy movement.

The protest has since become violent with the protesters throwing bombs, rocks and acid at the police, and the police retaliating by spraying tear gas. During this month, the protest reached a new height when a police officer shot a protester in the chest.

Indonesia protests

In September, a criminal code was introduced in Jakarta, Indonesia. The code outlawed sex outside of marriage with a six-month jail sentence for unmarried couples living together.

This new criminal code led to protests against the government and its oppressive laws. It is the largest protest Indonesia has witnessed since 1998, and it's still relatively nonviolent as most of the protesters are students and the police are using mainly tear gas and water cannons to try and dispel them. However, because of the protests, the Indonesian parliament has delayed a vote on approving the code.

Lebanon protests

Protests have been rising in Lebanon over the deteriorating economic situation in the country. The Lebanese believe their government officials are responsible for the bad state the economy is in.

The protest worsened when their government proposed a tax on WhatsApp messages this month. Although the protests started peacefully, it has turned violent after the police used tear gas on the protesters.

Haiti protests

Haiti is descending into more chaos with the eruption of violent protests. As it stands, about 30 people have been killed in the protests and half of the people dead were killed by the police. The protesters are demanding for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse.

Haitians are currently battling oil, power, and food shortages. All these, coupled with the president's decision to remove fuel subsidy are fueling their anger. The president has also been accused of corruption and mishandling the Venezuelan oil subsidy program.

Syrian protests

The Syrian protests have been ongoing for a while now, but the new uprising is regarding American soldiers departing Syria. Syrians are protesting the US decision to withdraw their troops because the departure of American soldiers makes them more vulnerable to attacks from the Turkish forces.

US President Donald Trump just made a sudden decision to evacuate the 1000 American soldiers in Syria. The evacuation has led to Turkish forces invading Syria to fight off Kurdish forces who were partners with the US in fighting off ISIS.

According to Newsweek, one sign aimed at the departing forces reads: "To the US Army who is leaving northeast Syria now. Tell your children that the children of the Kurds were killed by the Turks, and we did nothing to protect them."

Peru protests

The Peruvian government recently authorized an armed invention to unblock a copper mine. Some Peruvians living in Andean where the mine is, have been blocking the mining company's access road since the beginning of October. The mining protests are as a result of the dissatisfactions with Peru's governance in general.

President Martin Vizcarra had to dismiss Peru's congress after his fight to eradicate corruption bore no fruits despite months of trying.

The lawmakers responsible for the futility in response attempted to impeach him, naming his vice president as the new president. Although they've been unsuccessful so far, the uncertainty surrounding the presidency is the root of all the mass protests.

The Netherlands protests

Dutch farmers in the Netherlands are currently protesting against their parliament. The Dutch parliament stated that agriculture was causing high emissions and suggested that some cattle farms should be shut down.

Since then, thousands of farmers have taken to the Dutch highways to protest, blocking the highways with tractors. The farmers claim it's the aviation industry that is responsible for the high emissions and not them.

According to Dutch Automobile Association ANWB, over 700 miles of traffic plagued Dutch roads at the peak of rush hour as the tractors descended on The Hague. The Dutch police had to close off The Hague's Central Parliament Square. The army supported them in blockading main routes to Parliament with large vehicles.

France protests

The Dutch farmers are not the only ones angry with their lawmakers.

French farmers are boiling at France's agricultural laws. They have been holding mass demonstrations since the beginning of the year and they have held two in October alone.

The demonstrations consisted of more than 10,000 demonstrators. However, farmers are not the only dissatisfied sector in France. Several other groups are protesting their government's policies.

In Paris, firefighters are also protesting poor working conditions. They are demanding better pay and benefits. Earlier in the year also, police officers held a protest against the rising suicide rate among French officers, which many attribute to the stress of containing the protests for weeks on end.

Even though the protest has been ongoing for a long time, the protesters show no sign of giving up until their frustrations are attended to.

Chile protests

In October, the Chilean government increased subway fare causing high students to leap over turnstiles (mechanical gates) and the creation of a social media movement.

Average Chileans feel neglected by the president who they believe is disconnected from the realities of his people due to wealth and affluence.

The protests have become violent after the citizens started breaking train windows and destroying things in the train stations. It has also led to 180 arrests, 57 injured police officers and eleven deaths. Sebastian Pinera, the Chilean president, had to declare a state of emergency and also suspend the subway.

Iraq protests

Planned demonstrations are ongoing in Iraq against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. The planned demonstrations are being used to mark the first anniversary of Abdul Mahdi taking over office.

The protests started on the 1st of October, leading to the death of two people. Iraqis are protesting the government's inability to improve public services and unemployment.

They are also angry at the Prime Minister for removing the liked counterterrorism chief Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi. The protests quickly turned violent when the police fired live ammunition at the protesters in Baghdad. Apart from the initial two deaths, 286 people have been injured in the protests.

Israel protests

Israeli Arabs are being killed in Israel. Their local news provider, Haaretz, reports that 75 members of the Arab community have been killed in 2019, hence, the reason for the protests in Israel.

The Israeli Arab community is angry at the police for their inactions regarding the killings. Hundreds of protesters gathered last week outside of the police station in Ramla.

"Police for Jews, police for Arabs, racist police," demonstrators chanted, according to Haaretz.

Sudan Protests

Sudan protests started as far back as December 2018 when their president tried to introduce emergency austerity measures to prevent their economy from collapsing.

The government removed bread and fuel subsidies and this spurred the citizens to take to the streets in protest. Soon, the protest escalated from asking the government to return the subsidies to the citizens asking for the removal of the president.

Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir had been in power for 30 years before the protests eventually led to him being overthrown in April 2019. However, instead of the protests dying down after the citizens' aim was achieved, it further escalated.

A council of army generals took power after the president was overthrown, but struggled to maintain power because demonstrators insisted the Military transfer authority to a civilian administration.

The Military was unwilling to hand over power, so they used brute force on protesters to strengthen their position which led to more deaths in the country in June.

After the Military council faced backlash and condemnation for the brute force used from countries like the UK and US, they were forced to hold talks with the leaders of the protests and eventually reached an agreement.

Both the Military and civilians agreed to share power and on the 4th of August, 2019, they signed an informal constitutional declaration which paved way for a transitional government. The formal signing ceremony took place on August 17, 2019.

Bolivia Protests

Violent protests erupted on the streets of the Bolivian administrative capital La Paz, with angry protesters accusing the country's election authorities of fraud. Bolivia's presidential elections held on October 20th, it was allegedly, marred by irregularities and discrepancies.

The preliminary results released on the night of the election pointed to a runoff between Mr. Morales and Carlos Mesa, a former president, only for the election authorities to backtrack within 24 hours. On the 21st, they released an updated vote tally showing Mr. Morales leading by 10 percentage points, the margin required to avoid a runoff.

Morales has been in office since 2006 and Bolivians are reportedly tired of his authoritarian and corrupt ways. The announcement that he was winning the elections provoked a wave of huge demonstrations and attacks on election facilities on Monday night. Protesters took to the streets again on Tuesday night in La Paz and other cities.

Egypt protests

Sporadic protests flared in Egypt on the 20th of September. The anti-corruption protests were caused by the deteriorating standards of living in Egypt. Before that day, Egypt hadn't experienced any uprising since street demonstrations were banned in 2013. After the protests, the Prime Minister and his government clamped down on any form of protest.

The government started arresting people indiscriminately; from people who have political affiliations to people walking on the streets.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said the protests are a part of an external "brutal war" designed to create "confusion." He warned Egyptians that his government will not allow protesters to spread "chaos". Since September, Mostafa has been successful in repressing any form of Protests in Egypt.

Zimbabwe Protest

Zimbabwe declared Friday, 25th of October as a public holiday to protest against US sanctions.

These sanctions were imposed against some individuals in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and businesses associated with them in 2003. Since then, the US has added more people they believe are involved in human rights abuse or impoverishing the country on the sanction list.

The protesters say that these sanctions have destroyed their economy, but the US insists that the sanctions were placed on Individuals and companies and have nothing to do with the Zimbabwe economy.

"Our targeted sanctions are not responsible for Zimbabwe falling tragically short of its potential.

The fault lies in the catastrophic mismanagement by those in power and the government's abuse of its citizens," U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols said.

This protest is a bit different from the other protests going on because it's not directed at internal forces within the country but external ones. The government even provided buses for marches and the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa gave an address at the National Sports Stadium where the protest held.

Ecuador Protests

Like Nigeria, Ecuador is an oil-rich country whose economy depends largely on oil exports. Everything was good in the country when oil topped $100 a barrel and their president built airports, universities, roads and so on. Unfortunately, when oil slumped, so did their economy. Ecuador was left with billions in debt and a steep annual budget shortfall after the slump.

The president had to take out a three-year $4.2bn credit line from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which led to him to introduce austerity measures earlier this month. The $1.3bn austerity package included the elimination of fuel subsidies and a resulting sharp rise in gasoline and diesel prices.

This fueled Ecuadorians anger and many of them took to the streets to protest against the measures.

They demanded the return of the fuel subsidy and the resignation of President Moreno. Although the protest started peacefully, it turned violent when demonstrators were met by police, who attempted to disperse them using tear gas.

Demonstrators retaliated by throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and tube-launched fireworks at the officers. Eventually, Moreno ended the protests by agreeing to restore the subsidies on October 14, 2019.