I’m currently in Hong Kong, which is buzzing with excitement about a new song and video, commissioned by the government to commemorate the twentieth anniversary this summer of the handover of the former colony to China. Perhaps I exaggerate, but ‘Hong Kong Our Home’ the ‘Hong Kong SAR 20th Anniversary Theme Song’ has not had a warm reception.
Something about it seemed familiar to me. Then I realised that we might place it not simply in the history of lamentable Hong Kong handover songs, and there is such a history, for it is not the original musical commentary on this momentous political change. The first accompanied the handover itself at a special concert, and then another was released for the tenth anniversary. Suffice to say that a parody of that song has apparently received rather more viewers on Youtube.
But handover songs commence rather in 1943, with the transfer of the International Settlement at Shanghai to the control of the collaborationist government of Wang Jingwei on 1 August that year. Here are the words of the ‘Greater Shanghai March Song’ penned, at least nominally, by quisling mayor Chen Gongbo, and performed for the first time at a ‘special patriotic concert’.
“Greater Shanghai! Greater Shanghai!
Overlooking the Middle Pacific
Guarding the mouth of the Yangtsze River
Your bold face shines on Asia
Your name is known throughout the world!
Greater Shanghai! Greater Shanghai!
Our wealth is every growing;
Our civilization is ever progressing.
Let us rejuvenate China,
Safeguard East Asia
And perfect our freedom and independence.”
Of course, this is most unfair, for the lyrics and sentiments are very different to those of ‘Hong Kong Our Home’:
“That’s why I treasure Hong Kong
That’s why I admire Hong Kong
We love her with an eternal glowing flame
that grows as time goes by
revealing her true strength
Our beautiful Hong Kong shining ever brighter
Our beautiful Hong Kong up on the world stage
Step by step, we will carry on
astounding the world as we always have
Step by step, we will carry
on astounding the world as we always have
This is our home”
Ah. Well, the politics are of course, quite, quite, different, but I rather think, on reflection, that in many, many, ways, the song, at least, remains the same.