Chinese anthem at jubilee 'out of respect'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am


It may have been a jolly British affair, but good manners and the ghost of colonialism led St John's Cathedral to include the Chinese national anthem in a service on Tuesday celebrating the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth.

'For a church which is open to the public, it's considered the thing to do,' Reverend John Chynchen, who was in charge of the ceremony, said. 'It's a sign of respect.'

The opening bars of March of the Volunteers sent a ripple of surprise around a service for the queen's diamond jubilee on Tuesday.

Chynchen said there was no request from the government to play the anthem, but it was accepted protocol that any public event in Hong Kong which featured another country's anthem also include March of the Volunteers.

'I'll be at the Canadian National Day celebrations at the rotunda in Central later on this year, and once again someone will sing the Chinese national anthem,' he said.

But there was still a political aspect to the choice, with the sensitivity of playing the British anthem in the former colony firmly considered.

'As a church we are bound to maintain a quiet life. We don't need comparisons between 1996 and now,' Chynchen said. 'We naturally try to play it by the book. We don't want people saying things like: 'Do they [the British] think they never left. Are they still flying a flag in Central?' that sort of nationalistic bilge. I'm glad that we did it that way.'

It isn't the first time Chynchen and the church have had tongues wagging over a national anthem.

Six years ago, he controversially refused to include God Save the Queen at a service for the queen's 80th birthday.

'We didn't have the music for the Chinese national anthem at the time, and it didn't seem appropriate to have the British national anthem in this SAR period. It's really quite sensitive,' Chynchen said.

A last-minute compromise saw members of the Royal Overseas League belt out the British anthem three times after the clergy left.