Jacky Cheung song pulled from Apple Music in China over Tiananmen Square references

Cantopop star Jacky Cheung performing the song ‘Human’s Path’ from the 1990 film ‘Chinese Ghost Story II’. Screengrab via Apple Daily video.

A pop song by actor and Cantopop singer Jacky Cheung has been pulled from Apple Music in China due to its association with the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

According to HK01, the song was pulled from the streaming service after users on Chinese social media site Weibo pointed out in recent days that the lyrics were a veiled reference to the bloody 1989 incident, which saw the Chinese military violently disperse unarmed pro-democracy student protesters who were occupying the famous square, killing hundreds.

The song in question, Yan Gaan Dou, which literally translates to Human’s Path, is one of the tracks featured on Cheung’s 1989 album In Your Dreams. However, after connection was made, Apple Music pulled the song, with one screengrab shared on Weibo showing that track six on the album was missing.

Netizens in mainland China shared a screengrab from Apple Music in China showing track six of Cheung's album has gone missing after censors noted that the song contained references to the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Screengrab via Apple Daily video.
A screengrab from Apple Music in China showing track six of Cheung’s album had gone missing after censors noted that the song contained references to the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Screengrab via Apple Daily video.

The song is still available on Apple Music in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and North America.

The song was famously featured on the soundtrack of the 1990 romantic-comedy-horror-martial arts film A Chinese Ghost Story II, in which Cheung also starred.

When Human’s Path was first released, there was speculation in Hong Kong that the lyrics were references to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, with lyrics including the following lines:

The youth are angry, and heaven and earth are shedding tears,
How did the rivers and mountains become a sea of blood?
How did the road to home become the road to ruin?

The song was written by James Wong, the late, prolific Cantopop songwriter known for such notable works as Below The Lion Rock, which is often referred to as Hong Kong’s unofficial anthem; the theme tune to the TV show The Bund, a period drama about gangs in 1930s Shanghai that starred a young Chow Yun-fat; and the Chinese version of It’s A Small World.

Apple Daily reports that Wong — who was affectionately known as Uncle Jim — publicly acknowledged at the time of the song’s release that the lyrics were a reference to the June 4 massacre.

The news comes just months ahead of 30th anniversary of the crackdown, which saw hundreds and possibly as many as 1,000 students killed.

The anniversary has been in the news lately, after the Legislative Council last week voted down — as it does each year — a motion by pro-democracy lawmakers commemorating the date and condemning the central government’s actions. What’s more, a Hong Kong museum dedicated to remembering the massacre was vandalized over the weekend by unknown people just weeks ahead of its scheduled reopening.

As the anniversary approaches, censors in China will be working overtime to remove any terms or phrases on Chinese social media that could refer to the incident.

According to China Digital Times — who have compiled a spreadsheet of “sensitive words” — previously banned phrases and terms have included “6/4,” “May 35th,” “when spring becomes summer,” and even the candlelight emoji.


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