Is everything in Hong Kong now political? That’s what was being asked last week after the Chinese Communist Party’s Youth League started writing about the territory’s Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.
The symphony orchestra, known for holding unannounced concerts in shopping centres in recent years, decided to take it one step further in October with a flash mob performance in the Hong Kong International Airport’s departure hall.
A clip of the performance is now posted on YouTube and mainland video sharing sites, showing an initially small group of young musicians playing the traditional Sichuanese melody Footprints in the Snow near the check-in desks. Gradually more and more musicians come out of the crowd to join in, forming a full orchestra.
During the seven-minute medley they rattled through five pieces – in a mixture of mainland Chinese music, Hong Kong pop songs and international tunes.
Yet for the Youth League – an important organ of the Party for influencing its younger members – the flash concert was a symbol of just one thing: Hong Kong’s innate oneness with mainland China.
“Those songs are the shared memories of all Chinese people. Blood flows in the body, melodies are remembered in the mind and culture is engraved in bones. Only Chinese people know how deeply touching this act is,” the Youth League celebrated in a post titled “I am a Chinese”.
The People’s Daily went a step further claiming that many people “cried while watching the clip” although only 200 or so commented on it online.
“Amongst all the damaging talk of independence for Hong Kong, teenagers have their own way to express their true loyalties ,” wrote one.
Media in Hong Kong pointed out that the orchestra has played the same medley at all of its flash concerts in recent years and the songs have no special significance – indeed that they could just as easily be interpreted instead as a symbol of Hong Kong’s unique blended heritage, given the foreign pieces.
“The official Chinese media hype it up, causing a lot of false associations in the people’s minds,” the Hong Kong Economic Times complained.
The debate comes at a time when many in Hong Kong feel Beijing is tightening its control over the former UK colony and chipping away at the rights enshrined in the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini constitution.
Earlier this month Beijing ruled that two lawmakers were not allowed to take their seats in the Hong Kong legislative assembly because they refused to acknowledge Hong Kong was part of China during their swearing-in ceremony. This week it emerged that a new pro-Beijing youth group – the Hong Kong Army Cadets – had been given a much-coveted piece of real-estate in Kowloon Bay and HK$30 million ($3.86 million) for renovations.
It seems both sides are now playing for the hearts and minds of the next generation.
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