When playing a song is provocative


If I had to choose one to represent the era when Hong Kongers fought for their freedom, it would be ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ during the anti-exile movement.

Since then, the unofficial Hong Kong national anthem has been characterized as an anti-government song.

Initially, the charges were “playing an unlicensed musical instrument” and “misconduct in public”, but changed to “suspicion of sedition.” This change reflects that the public can be guilty not only of what they say, but also of what they sing.

Li Jiexin, 68, has appeared in court three times since 2020 for playing “Glory to Hong Kong.”

Epoch Times photo
Li Jiexin has been charged with playing “Glory to Hong Kong” on an erhu at Tung Chung Bus Terminal on April 29, 2022. (Screenshot by HK Situation Report/The Epoch Times)

The most recent indictments were August 3, August 18, and September 9, 2021. Li said he performed glory in Hong Kong on the erhu (his two-stringed Chinese instrument played with a bow) outside the MTR Mong Kok station. Without a permit issued by the police commissioner, legal rights or explanation, the Hong Kong police issued Lee his three subpoenas.

If convicted, Li could face up to HK$2,000 (approximately $255) or three months in prison.

Since 2019, Lee has been performing “Glory to Hong Kong” in public and has been thwarted by police on numerous occasions. In May 2020, when he was playing the erhu on a street corner in Yuen Long, some passers-by accused Li of making noise and called the police.

When the police arrived, they gave Lee a ticket and charged him with playing an instrument without a permit. Lee went to Tuen Magistrate’s Court on September 1, 2020.

Lee was adamant about not pleading guilty. He thought he was ticketed and prosecuted simply because the police wanted to suppress his performance of “Glory to Hong Kong.”

“It is my right to play the erhu.

But by March 2022, prosecutors said they would not provide evidence on the subpoena against Lee. A magistrate eventually canceled the warrant.

Isn’t Hong Kong “one country, two systems”?

The 68-year-old was given a ticket again and was summoned to court for “playing an instrument without permission.”

This time, he was accused of performing “Glory to Hong Kong” at Tung Chung Bus Terminal on April 29, 2022.

Li denied the charges when a court investigated the case in July. He also said, “I used to play on the streets of the UK, Thailand and even mainland China. Why can’t I play on the streets of Hong Kong? Isn’t Hong Kong supposed to be ‘one country, two systems’? So why can’t we play freely in Hong Kong?”

At the time, Interim Magistrate Tsang Hin Tung replied, “No, I cannot.”

The erhu player says he went to the police station twice to apply for a permit to perform, but officers refused to issue the permit, citing a “pandemic” as the reason.

The case was reopened in August. A police officer testified that he arrived at the scene after receiving a noise complaint. They found Lee playing music amplified by a loudspeaker, heard from 20 meters (65.6 ft) away from where Lee was sitting.

The police officer said he then asked Lee to show him his ID. Lee planned to pack up and leave, stating that if the police wanted to summon him, he would continue playing the erhu.

Since Lee had no legal representation, he defended himself in Mandarin. Lee asked certain officials about the nature of “Glory to Hong Kong”. Interim magistrate Tam Lap-fung said he had nothing to do with the case. “What matters is whether the defendant was playing an instrument with permission.”

Ultimately, the court ruled that prosecutors had failed to provide all the elements indicted to prove the charges.

The magistrate held that the evidence only proved that the defendant was playing the erhu at the time in question, but not whether he had a permit. Therefore, Tam decided the evidence was insufficient and dropped his charges. Li also said he was awarded HK$500 (about $64) for legal fees.

Lee expressed satisfaction with the out-of-court ruling and said he would perform on the streets again. Li thought issuing subpoenas was a waste of time. He said, “Truth is on our side. Glory always belongs to Hong Kong.”

But closed cases took a strange turn. Interim magistrate Tam Lap-fung reversed the ruling four days later.

The case was heard on September 2nd. Tam claimed that after reviewing the rules, he found that the charges related to Li’s case did not require the prosecution to produce evidence. The court required Li to challenge the proven evidence and canceled his legal fees.

Lee said playing the erhu is not political. “I was just playing the notes on the sheet music.”

The case has been postponed until October 3rd.

Multiple summon street performers

Lee had multiple summons tickets to play music on the street. In another case, on August 3rd, August 18th and September 9th, he was summoned by the Hong Kong Police three times for playing an instrument in public without a permit. He was playing “Glory to Hong Kong” in all cases.

The court stayed his case, so prosecutors said they were waiting for Li’s verdict on October 3 on the same charges.

The lawsuit has been postponed again pending clarification of legal issues.

Lee objected to the prosecution’s delay, saying the case had dragged on too long. It not only exhausted him, but also squandered a lot of government resources.

The magistrate ultimately sided with the prosecution, arguing that it would be beneficial to both sides to delay the case to weigh the grounds and responsibility for producing evidence. “You can also take advantage of the legal world,” Tam added.

police arrest and suppress street performers

Lee’s indictment is not the first time police have targeted street performers, especially those who sang about social issues.

In July and August 2020, Filipino-Chinese street performer Olive Ma was twice arrested for singing the English version of Glory to Hong Kong after the national security law went into effect. The police confiscated her Ma’s instruments and stopped her from playing. Police initially charged her Ma with obstruction of police officers’ duties and possession of an assault weapon.

However, the police amended the charges to noise disturbance with a musical instrument and noise disturbance with a loudspeaker.

On May 21, 2021, Ma performed at Central. Police promptly arrested him for disturbing public order. They also confiscated Ma’s guitar, speakers, and mic stand.

Music associated with social movements is a crime

Although the song “Glory to Hong Kong” was not under Hong Kong law to violate national security or divide the country, government officials have already called it an inflammatory and “illegal event.” It is classified as “closely related to

On the evening of September 19, 2022, the day Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral was held, Hong Kong residents gathered at the British Consulate General to pay their respects to the late Queen.

That night, outside the consulate, a man played “Glory to Hong Kong” and the British national anthem “Long live the Queen” on a harmonica. Police arrested him on suspicion of committing acts of sedition. He was detained overnight and later released on bail, but had to turn himself in to police at the end of November.

All schools ban ballroom songs

On July 8, 2020, former Education Secretary Kelvin Yeung Yun-hung said in response to questions from the Legislative Council: Hong Kong schools have banned students from singing or broadcasting such songs on campus. Never allow it. “



Chang Ying