In 1997, Andy Lau debuted his hit single “中國人” (Chinese People) to celebrate the handover of Hong Kong. Andy Lau was one of the “Four Heavenly Kings” (四大天王) consisting of himself, Leon Lai, Aaron Kwok and Jacky Cheung, who have achieved God-like status in Hong Kong’s Cantopop realm in the 1990s.
Andy Lau’s 1997 Hit, 中國人 “Chinese People”
In Andy Lau’s “中國人”, he sang, “we share the same blood ; we share the same race” (一樣的血，一樣的種). By “we” it was clear he meant HongKongers and our fellow Chinese. The audiences were mainly our parents’ generation. No one could have imagined at the time that there would have been any issue with Andy Lau singing about being Chinese.
Beyond also sang about nationalistic sentiments
Andy Lau is not alone. In 1992, Beyond, the quintessential Hong Kong rock band whose “海闊天空” became the unofficial Hong Kong anthem, released the hit “長城” (Great Wall). Though the late Wong Ka-kui publicly said that the song echoes Chinese sentiments, the lyrics allude that building the Great Wall came at a costs of many Chinese lives.
Andy Lau’s songs represented a generation of Chineseness
Andy Lau’s “中國人” was released at a time when many HongKongers had high hopes for “One Country, Two Systems.” Many Cantopop singers, including Sam Hui, sang about Hong Kong’s love for the Chinese motherland. Their songs represented a generation of HongKongers who considered themselves Chinese without question.
My aunt, now in her 60s, once told me about her history lesson when she was still a secondary pupil back in the day. When her history teacher talked about the Rape of Nanking during WWII in which 300,000 Chinese, including women and children, were raped and slaughtered, the teacher’s eyes became teary, and with imagery, saying that so many Chinese died that the river overflew with Chinese blood. This is a far cry from today’s Chinese history lessons. How the world has changed.