Kenny G and Hu Jintao Make Protest Music: Tunisia's Choice of Revolutionary Symbols Confounds Chinese Censors (VIDEO)

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Feb. 23 2011 6:07 PM

Kenny G and Hu Jintao Make Protest Music: Tunisia's Choice of Revolutionary Symbols Confounds Chinese Censors (VIDEO)

As Chinese citizens try to take part in the still-spreading international protests , the country's Internet censors have run into a problem: the name of the movement born in Tunisia, the Jasmine Revolution , overlaps with the traditional and ubiquitous folk song " Mo Li Hua ," or "Jasmine Flower." This is making it unusually difficult for the authorities to block searches and postings involving sensitive keywords. The New York Times explains:

It was supposedly the favorite of China’s previous leader, Jiang Zemin, who asked it to be played at the 1997 handover of the former British colony, Hong Kong, to China. In addition, videos exist of China’s current leader, Hu Jintao singing the song while on a trip in Africa.

Some of these videos were posted on social networking sites, forcing censors to have to decide if they should take down videos of senior leaders that could be explained as an expression of patriotism.

A search in Chinese for "Hu Jintao sings 'Mo Li Hua'" turns up video posted long before the Tunisian unrest, showing the Chinese president singing along with a group of African performers, then telling them how important the song is where he comes from. Here's a more recent edit of the clip:

And here is the Vienna Boys Choir performing the song:

Below the Boys Choir YouTube clip, someone has posted new lyrics, in Chinese:

Zai Zhogguo zhao bu dao mo li hua...

You can't find jasmine flowers in China

You can't find jasmine flowers in China

If you have one in your hand, Public Security will arrest you

A fist and a boot will quickly strike

Chinese people are not mutes

But none dare speak

Jasmine flower, oh, jasmine flower.


Elsewhere on YouTube, there's Chinese protest footage , followed someone singing the "can't find jasmine" lyrics, apparently through some sort of voice-mangler. And here is "Mo Li Hua" played by Kenny G—the inescapable background sound of China—the YouTube comments for which have also suddenly become an outlet for reformist yearnings. Zhongguoren ye pei minzhu , someone has written: Chinese people also deserve democracy.


Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.



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