American media ignore 'Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,' the anthem of Hong Kong's protests

There are two million people marching in the streets of Hong Kong these days, which is one-quarter of the population of the entire city-state that is China’s last bastion of freedom. This fabulous video from TeamBlackSheep shows you a little of what it’s been like.

Not only was a controversial law at stake that would have greatly impacted what little freedoms Hong Kong Chinese have these days, but the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre was just two weeks ago.

What hasn’t been reported on by much of the international media in Hong Kong these days is how a song from the 1970s Jesus movement has become, for many, the anthem of the pro-democracy movement. Here’s a report from that contains a bunch of videos of folks singing this hymn.

Remember, English is not their first language, which makes it all the more compelling:

A hymn sung by Christian groups participating in the ongoing anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong has caught on and become the quasi anthem of the movement.

Composed in 1974, the song is sung in a minor key, and notable for its simplicity and catchiness due to its repeated harmonies of just one phrase.

Alarmed by reports of police brutality, many church groups galvanized to participate in peace protests, calling on the authorities to stop the violence.

Their presence on the front lines of the protests were helpful in making the demonstrations look more like an outdoor worship service rather than the “organized riots” the government said it had to crack down on to bring back law and order.

“Outdoor worship services?”

Why hasn’t anyone reported on this? I saw tiny mentions in foreign media, like in The Economist, but that’s about it in the secular media. Oh, and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle said this:

"Sing Hallelujah to the Lord" has become a hit across Hong Kong in the past few days, and it's the first thing I heard as I made my way to Sunday's anti-extradition bill protest. The man singing the song was Reverend Chu Yiu-Ming (pictured), a prominent opposition figure who received a suspended sentence in April for his role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.

Instead, we’re consistently getting faith-free pieces like this from the New York Times:

HONG KONG — Protesters poured into the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday with renewed determination and a lengthening list of demands, rejecting the government’s retreat on a contentious extradition bill and extending the political crisis gripping the semiautonomous territory.

Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, shelved the bill on Saturday and followed that up with a rare apology the next day, actions that pro-democracy activists dismissed as too little, too late.

And the sheer size of the demonstration — organizers gave an unverified estimate of close to two million of the territory’s seven million people — made clear the public remained unsatisfied.

But nothing on the hymn they were singing? Hmm. It’s no huge secret that evangelical Christians are on the barricades for this event. Want some basic reporting on that? A May 30 Christianity Today piece tells us who all the major players are.

Also on May 30, the Wall Street Journal ran a guest editorial titled “Inside China’s War on Christians.” All this isn’t being done in a corner, folks. We call stories that miss an obvious religion angle as having a religion “ghost.” The ghost here is pretty mammoth — like a million or so people.

So why are so many media neglecting to even mention the Christian undercurrent of these protests?

Beats me. So, once again, it’s up to the religious advocacy media, like the Christian Post, to tell us what’s going on, which they’ve done well enough.

I wish someone (South China Morning Post, maybe?) who’s familiar with the church scene in Hong Kong would clue me in on how this golden chestnut of a hymn retained popular usage over 45 years. Over on this side of the Pacific, “Sing Hallelujah” was composed and sung by Baby Boomers, but it fell out of popular usage decades ago.

There is another song being sung at the protests. It’s “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables and I’m noticing that secular media aren’t having problems reporting on that. But that was also the anthem for similar protests in 2014. Maybe “Sing Hallelujah” is something different for 2019?

Are there any reporters out there answering these questions?

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