Monday, 23 February 2015

Hong Kong's Oscar Mention

Common (left) and John Legend make passionate acceptance speeches
In Hong Kong the Academy Awards are broadcast in the morning our time until around 1pm. We have the television on in the office to catch the odd speech or interesting musical number -- like Lady Gaga doing an amazing imitation of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

But when Common and John Legend came up to the stage to pick up the Oscar for best original song for "Glory" from the film Selma, about Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement, our jaws dropped.

Common started off by saying:

First off, I'd like to thank God that lives in us all. Recently, John and I got to go to Selma and perform "Glory" on the same bridge that Dr King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now is a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope. Welded with compassion. And elevated by love for all human beings.

There was an immediate flurry of tweets on Twitter, thanking @common for the shout out to Hong Kong.

"Tears welled up in my eyes," said Edward Chin, founder of a group of banking and finance professionals in Hong Kong that supported the protests. He was touched to know the protesters' efforts were recognized elsewhere. "We haven't achieved much yet, but Hong Kong people still have dreams... We know that it will be a prolonged fight but we will have true democracy one day."

Avery Ng, the vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats who was among those arrested and then released for his participation in the 79-day protest said he was "deeply moved" by the speech.

"I watched Selma a few weeks ago. I couldn't help but feel a powerful emotional connection with the people in Selma 50 years ago. They remind us that we still have much oppression to endure before we can see the road of freedom," he said.

Legend took to the microphone and added these words:

Thank you. Nina Simone said it's an artist's duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, the act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on. God bless.

Needless to say the leadership in Beijing are probably infuriated to see that the Hong Kong protests did resonate with people in the west, and that the movie may inspire them to continue their fight for universal suffrage.

Speaking of which -- the other day another brilliant yellow banner with the words "I want true universal suffrage" was unfurled on Lion Rock again, a testament that the Umbrella Movement refuses to die!

And now will the movement gain momentum again with its new theme song, "Glory"?


  1. It was really unexpected -- and heartening -- to hear Hong Kong and its pro-democracy efforts getting a mention at the Oscars.

    I wonder... will Hong Kong movie goers be more likely to go check out "Selma" when it opens on March 12th here? If so, I hope they'll be inspired by what they see on screen...

    1. It will be a big push for the film! But they need to release it earlier!!!