Cantopop lyricist Wyman Wong wishes he’d chosen his words more wisely. Wong apologized Friday for “misunderstanding” that arose from the controversial lyrics he wrote for Hacken Lee’s hit song “Beijing, North Point”.
The song was posted on internet discussion boards as an example of efforts to promote harmony, prompting a backlash from critics who said it was patriotic propaganda.
Wong’s apology for his “carelessness” on the issue shows just how hard it can be for Hong Kong entertainers to win over Hong Kong fans and avoid falling foul of mainland politics.
Criticism of the lyrics started mounting last week when netizens claimed it was designed to promote harmonious integration between Hong Kong and the mainland. The song, they said, was a tool to help Beijing to maintain stability in the city prior to the July 1 march for universal suffrage.
Some said Wong, who has expressed anti-government views and support for the unofficial referendum last month, had betrayed Hong Kong people for personal gain across the border.
In the song, Beijing is seen as a reference to China and North Point to the area on Hong Kong Island. The first line goes: “Beijing, North Point, lovers together. They want to see each other.” It goes on to say: “Beijing and North Point made a wish at the Golden Bauhinia Plaza to melt the border through love.” It ends on the line: “Beijing and North Point are not far away and have no real anger for each other.”
Wong broke his silence on the issue Friday morning with a “No Ass-kissing” photo on his Instagram account.
He then said in a blog post that there are two issues for people to consider.
“The central government’s treatment of Hong Kong is one issue. The other that people from Hong Kong and China don’t need to be hostile to each other. ‘Beijing North Point’ is a song for race integration and was written when the Hong Kong people described Chinese tourists as locusts,” he said.
Wong said his lyrics did have a hidden meaning but they seem to have been misunderstood by the general public. But he also admitted that it wasn’t surprising that it was interpreted as a pro-Beijing song because the words did not contain enough hints for listeners.
He said he was ashamed and saddened that the song was being used by the government. He also insisted that he hadn’t changed his political position and supported the June referendum, which was held one month after the lyrics were written. “I need to hold my head high for my life,” he said, suggesting he will stand firm and not flatter Beijing.
Wong’s public stand contrasts with the politics-free nature of Hong Kong pop since 1997. Artists have become reliant on the mainland market and it can be too risky for them to give voice to desires for democracy or political reform.
Diva Kay Tse is an exception. Tse has been releasing political songs in the past few years, the only top-tier artist to publicly call for democracy in the city.
Prior to this year July 1 march, she released a new song with her partner Adrian Chow called “Egg and Lamb”, urging residents to pursue true democracy without fear, rather than be lambs who don’t step beyond the farm. It became the unofficial theme song for the July 1 march and the music video has had more than 500,000 views on YouTube since Monday.
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