Hong Kong fans turn out to hear 'red songs'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2012, 12:00am


Songs like I am Proud, I am Chinese used to be sung under chairman Mao Zedong's reign, and they still appear to have thousands of Hong Kong fans - who turned out this week to hear some favourites performed by Chongqing choirs.

'Red songs' have made a comeback in the southwestern city following a passionate 2008 campaign by Chongqing's Communist Party chief Bo Xilai which caught worldwide attention.

Bo has apparently been vying for a spot in the Politburo Standing Committee, but the detention of Chongqing's vice-mayor and former police chief Wang Lijun has cast a shadow over his ambitions.

Still, his red song revival was going down a storm in Hong Kong this week when a show featuring 13 Chongqing choirs - and a total cast of 420 performers, of all ages - came to town to celebrate the Spring Lantern Festival as well as the 15th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover. The lantern festival marks the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

About 1,400 people attended the City Hall performance on Monday and 1,080 turned out for a second show at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the troupes performed for the People's Liberation Army at their naval base on Stonecutters Island.

The shows were primarily organised by the central-government-funded newspaper Ta Kung Pao, along with more than a dozen other Hong Kong organisations that were given complimentary tickets to the invitation-only events. Between songs, there were recitations of famous Chinese poems.

The director, Chen Hua said: 'I was nervous initially about whether Hongkongers would be receptive, but it turns out our two public shows were full houses, and many in the audience stayed behind to take photos with our performers. After all, we are all Chinese and our music brings us together.'

A Ta Kung Pao spokeswoman said the event came about after two visits by Hong Kong youth and media chiefs to Chongqing in April 2010 and October last year, who had apparently expressed a desire to bring the show to Hong Kong. She added that the 'red songs are not sung with a right-wing or revolutionary message, but simply a reflection of Chinese people's positive spirits'.

The left-wing political commentator Martin Oei said: 'The red song troupe from Chongqing must have been brought to Hong Kong to show that even this international city can accept this type of culture.

'But with the scandal of Wang Lijun's detention, Bo's chance of a spot in the Politburo is slim.'

Johnny Lau Yui-siu, veteran China watcher, said: 'I still know [the songs] inside out. Singing red songs cannot evoke the patriotic emotions the same way it did during the Cultural Revolution. Even though the lyrics are the same, Chinese people - especially the older generation - like it for the familiar melody.'

Chen (pictured) said a red-song singalong was good for the heart and the health. 'Singing red songs has given Chongqing an identity.' He said that not all the music was from the Mao era. 'Our performers sing songs and recite poetry from different periods of Chinese history, such as the Qing dynasty. If you're Chinese, you can relate.'