Hong Kong Canto-pop legend Jacky Cheung Hok-yau has defended his use of the phrase “Hong Kong, add oil” in a message he recorded for the state broadcaster after the station reportedly axed his clip because of the slogan’s popularity with anti-government protesters in 2019. Declaring that he was a proud Chinese citizen who loved his country and the city, Cheung on Sunday argued that the phrase should not be banned just because it was once used by people who “made mistakes”. In the 21-second message he recorded for CCTV to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover to Chinese rule, Cheung said: “Hong Kong has experienced a lot with ups and downs in the past 25 years. I grew up with this city. I was born and grew up here. I still believe in this city, still hoping that it will become a better one. Add oil, Hong Kong.” The phrase of encouragement, which roughly translates as “Keep it up”, was widely heard during the social unrest three years ago. Some runners taking part in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon last year were warned by organisers and police against displaying the phrase on their outfits CCTV removed the clip, after some mainland Chinese complained over the use of the phrase and the absence of “country” in Cheung’s remarks. The singer on Sunday stressed he was a patriot and always tried to keep politics separate from his art. “I have heard of ‘Beijing add oil’, ‘Wuhan add oil’ and ‘Shanghai, add oil’, but I personally cannot understand why ‘Hong Kong, add oil’, or the yellow and black colours, has become the yardstick in determining one’s patriotism or is taboo just because they have been used by some people who made mistakes, or were worn by some criminals who had ulterior motives,” he said. Chanting ‘Hongkongers, add oil’ could be seditious, court told Protesters during the 2019 social unrest mainly wore black, while yellow became the colour associated with the opposition movement. Cheung called it “the greatest miracle of this century” for China to have brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and that he was proud to be Chinese. “I hope that we Chinese people are rational and will convince people with reason,” he said. “Whether I love the country and Hong Kong or not, the community will make a judgment.” Some of his fans offer their support online, saying patriotism should be a reflection of one’s heart and argued that people who constantly mentioned the “motherland” might not love the country as much as they professed. Cheung was one of the 28 local and mainland singers, alongside Alan Tam Wing-lun and Andy Lau Tak-wah, who took part in the production of Heading Forward , a theme song dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the handover. .