A pro-Beijing youth-oriented group produces an intriguing video urging Hong Kong’s people to be overcome with patriotic emotions upon hearing the Chinese national anthem. This comes ahead of new legislation under which anyone not standing erect and weeping when March of the Volunteers is played can be imprisoned for three years.
The video is slick, both in the sense of having sophisticated no-expense-spared production, and in being rather vomit-like.
For many viewers, the thing that jumps out – so to speak – is the old lady climbing defiantly from her wheelchair. One of the criticisms of the impending National Anthem Compulsory Adoration law is that the disabled might be punished for not respecting the music. It was a bold decision by the video-makers (unless they are stupid) to include this clip – but you are invited to note that she is getting to her tired old feet willingly and enthusiastically.
The sharp-eyed will notice that she and the guy next to her are sporting medals. They seem to be the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the city’s top honour – originally reserved for only the richest property tycoons and their closest friends in the civil service, but now handed out to an increasing number of lesser mortals. (I think the lady in the wheelchair might be Rosie Young Tse Tse, esteemed medical professor.*)
Other stars in the film are the predictable happy schoolkids, parading police (marching British-style rather than goose-stepping), and very clean- and wholesome-looking menial workers (cleaners and a bus driver) who drop everything to gaze in wonder at the national flag when the music starts. And Jackie Chan, but you probably guessed that already.
More interesting is what is not in the video – namely, heavy-duty Mainland and Communist stuff. There is a shot of Beijing’s Liaison Office HQ (the ugly skyscraper in Western), and a brief composite of photos showing National Day and similar ceremonies, with that unmistakable People’s Daily aesthetic. But little or no Great Wall, Tiananmen, aircraft carrier, Xi Dada, or other symbols of the sort serious pro-Beijing propaganda would include.
Instead, it’s all quite Hong Kong – with allusions to the MTR, Cantopop, quasi-Brit schoolkids’ uniforms and other local images (plus the Zhuhai bridge). And Westerners. Not just Allan Zeman (though he appears a lot) but rugby players (whose mastery of the anthem has gone down well in official quarters) and quite a few others. Maybe I was dozing, but I didn’t see any brown people.
It would have been more nationalistic and putrid if box-ticking civil servants had produced it. Instead, it was backed by tycoons’ kids. Maybe they are more subtle and in tune with local tastes, or at least can hire a PR agency full of Australian guys with beards who are oblivious to the Mainland/CCP ideological symbolism.
Obviously, the video is just a big shoe-shine – essentially a gesture for the tycoons’ offspring to display their patriotic-groveling credentials to local and Mainland officials, rather than convince a wider public audience.
But it unwittingly highlights the challenge of selling a Leninist dictatorship to Hong Kong – when you keep falling back on Jackie Chan, Alan Tam and Allan Zeman for hip-and-groovy youthful trendiness, to attract the cool kids into Loving the Motherland.
[*Update: a war heroine?]