Profanity-filled song from local band Sweat and Blood Attack opens up debate on freedom of speech

Staff writer

One local song is stirring up controversy for its aggressive lyrics. Should it be protected as freedom of speech? Or should we ban it?

Staff writer |

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Sweat and Blood Attack performing at Lingnan University

Local band Sweat and Blood Attack has sparked controversy over profanity and the right to free speech after playing their song F*** the Police at Lingnan University’s “Concert of Resistance in the Dark Times”. The four-person group was invited by the school’s student union.

Student union president Lau Chun-lam defended the performance, claiming it was an effective way to catch the attention of the government. “It’s like when we punch back just one time after the government hit us with a stick 10 times, you continue to focus on that one punch we throw. Is that just and fair?” Lau said.

But the insulting lyrics may have bigger consequences. Former Law Society chairman Junius Ho Kwan-yiu thinks the intimidating and insulting lyrics of the song could violate Section 17B of the Public Order Ordinance. That section states that anyone who uses language that contains threatening, abusive or insulting words in public can be imprisoned for 12 months and fined HK$5,000.

Students around Hong Kong are split on their opinions of the song. An international school student who wished to remain anonymous told Young Post that he found the lyrics so vulgar he couldn’t finish listening to the song. “It was, without a doubt, inappropriate to play the song in a public concert,” he said. “Anyone with the slightest bit of self-respect and decency would be offended by its lyrics. I’m surprised that they weren’t booed off the stage.” But, he said, despite the offensive nature of the song, it’s still not right for the performance to be banned or fined.

For Ernest Leung Lok-hang, 15, of La Salle College, the song is an inappropriate reaction to the current political situation, where the students find themselves frustrated and feel they haven’t been heard. “I think that this song is quite inappropriate to be played in a public concert,” he says. “This way of expressing your own opinion should never be encouraged.”

Catherine Wang Zhaoxi, 16, from Chinese International School, sees no problem with the song, and thinks people are overreacting to the vulgar lyrics. “Plenty of songs have swear words in them, some more than others,” she said. While she hasn’t heard the song itself yet, she says she wants to. “I want to see if the officials are correct, that my head will explode with obscenities, or I will feel so degraded that I will jump out of the nearest window.”

Other students are looking at the threat of a fine for playing the song as an infringement on free speech. Tinaz Mirza, 17, from South Island School says it’s a complicated issue.

“Words have a lot more power than some people think. They’re the first step to action, so they can definitely cause problems if inappropriately used. Yet should it be a crime to say what you want? Or is it the public’s responsibility to think before they act?” she asked. “I think although the lyrics are inappropriate and could cause problems, it should not be illegal to play them. A government making it illegal for people to express themselves against the police is a violation of basic freedom of speech.”