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Singer Jacky Cheung defends use of slogan 'Hong Kong add oil'

Cheung's video scrubbed for using 'Hong Kong add oil,' failing to mention 'motherland' and 'return'

Jacky Cheung delivers message to people of Hong Kong. (Weibo image)

Jacky Cheung delivers message to people of Hong Kong. (Weibo image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Hong Kong Canto-pop star Jacky Cheung (張學友) on Sunday (July 3) issued a statement defending his use of the phrase "Hong Kong add oil" (加油, jiāyóu) in a video that was scrubbed after Chinese netizens complained he was "unpatriotic."

To mark the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the U.K. to China on July 1, CCTV released a series of videos by Hong Kong stars commemorating the event. Among these videos was a 22-second clip recorded by Cheung.

In the video, Cheung introduced himself and said in Cantonese:

"Hong Kong has experienced a lot with ups and downs over these past 25 years. However, because I grew up together with this city, and I was born and grew up here, I still believe in this city, and I still hope that it will become a better one than before. Hong Kong add oil.”

Broken down, the meaning of the Chinese characters in the latter phrase is to add (加, jiā) oil (油, yóu), like injecting oil into an engine to rev it up. The expression is widely used in the Mandarin-speaking world to voice support for a person, especially at athletic events, the Oxford English Dictionary cites its origin as a Chinese-English (Chinglish) expression coming "chiefly from Hong Kong English."

However, Chinese netizens quickly lashed out at the video for being "unpatriotic." They complained that he failed to use the word "motherland" or "return."

They also speculated that the "ups and downs" he spoke of were a reference to the 2019-20 Hong Kong protests and his dissatisfaction with the outcome. The netizens took particular umbrage at the phase "Hong Kong add oil" as it had been used as a rallying cry by the pro-democracy protestors during the pro-democracy protests.

Following the outcry by Chinese nationalists, CCTV yanked the video from the airwaves in China. On Sunday, Cheung issued a statement in response to the deletion of the video.

In the statement, Cheung emphasized that he is a patriot and has always sought to separate politics from art, the South China Morning Post reported. The artist said that it was precisely because he has such a deep relationship with Hong Kong that he has witnessed the most "golden and glorious moments in Hong Kong."

However, he pointed out that Hong Kong is currently undergoing an "unsatisfactory" phase over the past few years with violence, followed by the pandemic, depressing all industries and causing panic among the people. "Now it is time for Hong Kong to add oil," Cheung said.

He pointed out that the phrases "Beijing add oil," Wuhan add oil," and "Shanghai add oil" have been frequently used in China.

The singer then questioned why "Hong Kong add oil" or the colors yellow and black, have become the "yardstick in determining one’s patriotism or is taboo just because they have been used by some people who made mistakes, or were worn by some criminals who had ulterior motives." He lauded China's ability to bring hundreds of millions out of poverty as the "greatest miracle of this century" and claimed that he was proud to be Chinese.

Cheung expressed his hope that "we Chinese people are rational and will convince people with reason." He then said: "Whether I love the country and Hong Kong or not, the community will make a judgment.”

The star singer described himself as an "ant citizen" and thanked the public for their supervision of his words and deeds. He then closed by vowing, "I will continue to work hard to be a good person and a good singer under everyone's supervision as a Chinese."