Not every student who supports Hong Kong’s long-running protest movement walked out of class during the past two days’ school boycotts, as an auditorium full of teenagers at a Kowloon high school proved with a Les Mis-inflected act of defiance at a school assembly.
Video posted online yesterday shows students singing the unofficial protest anthem Do You Hear the People Sing — made famous by the young revolutionaries of the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables — drowning out the Chinese national anthem March of the Volunteers during an assembly as stone-faced teachers awkwardly stand by.
A second video posted online, reportedly from the same assembly, shows students at a school assembly chanting “reclaim Hong Kong, the revolution of our times,” and “five key demands, not one less” at the end of the school song.
According to Stand News, both incidents took place at the Po Leung Kuk Celine Ho Yam Tong College in Diamond Hill during the “opening ceremony” of the school year which, according to the school’s calendar, would have been Monday.
Monday marked the start of a two-week boycott of classes in support of anti-government protests calling on the authorities to, among other things, withdraw a controversial extradition bill and launch an independent inquiry into police violence. Students, who have been the backbone of the ongoing protest movement, skipped classes to stage protests around the city, forming human chains and chanting slogans outside schools.
The videos of Monday’s assembly disruptions began to circulate widely online after local media discovered footage of the assembly uploaded to the school’s official YouTube channel, Voice of Po Tung, which has since been deleted.
VIDEO: When Chinese national anthem played, students instead sang "Do you hear the people sing”.
Confirmed happened at assembly of Po Leung Kuk Celine Ho Yam Tong College. The original youtube channel is disabled. pic.twitter.com/BH8FekpCR0
— Alvin L (@alvinllum) September 4, 2019
Do You Hear the People Sing has been a staple of Hong Kong protests since as far back as 2014’s Umbrella Movement. With a new wave of protests rocking the city, it cropped up again in June, when protesters were heard singing it in the streets during mass rallies.
Do you hear the people sing? We do. In #HongKong's Admiralty area. And it sounds like #LesMiserables from here. #NoChinaExtradition #HongKongProtests #反送中 #616黑衣大遊行 #AntiExtraditionBill pic.twitter.com/zde3zR6l8R
— Coconuts Hong Kong (@CoconutsHK) June 16, 2019
Since then it has increasingly cropped up at recent demonstrations, including one at a Manchester City match, with organizers sometimes going so far as to distribute lyrics sheets — in both English in Chinese — to encourage singing along.
Monday’s rendition was also noteworthy in that it disrupted the singing of the Chinese national anthem. While fears over an extradition bill first gave rise to the current protests, another controversial bill currently before the Legislative Council — and similarly cited as evidence of Hong Kong’s eroding freedoms — would criminalize any “disrespect” of China’s national song.
The Beijing-backed national anthem bill was formally introduced in January, and has been a lightning rod for criticism from civil rights advocates, who have called it a blatant violation of freedom of speech.