For the past two weeks, a Christian hymn has been cropping up in an unlikely place – the protests that have drawn millions of people on to the streets of Hong Kong.
“Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” has become the unofficial anthem of crowds protesting against a controversial proposed law that would allow people accused of crimes in China to be extradited to the mainland.
For Christians in Hong Kong, the hymn is a sign of faith but also of their concerns that it’s not only political but also religious issues that are at stake, should the bill ever pass.
Fears and uncertainty
The protests were already under way when the tune first started being sung.
But on 11 June – a day before the protests turned violent – a group of Christians holding a public prayer meeting through the night started singing Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.
The hymn was picked up by other protesters – soon even non-Christians were singing it.
“People picked up this song as it is short and easy to remember,” Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, told the BBC. “There’s only one line: ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’.”
Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, one of the main Umbrella Movement leaders charged by the gov’t, sings “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” with supporters in Wan Chai. The hymn has become a symbol of peace protest over the past week.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 16, 2019
After a long & emotional day, i hope this vid will bring you peace before going to bed.
These people, who don’t know each other before, have been singing the same hallelujah song for more than 18 hours in front of the police.
Again, only in #hongkong #extraditionbill #AntiELAB pic.twitter.com/Xo6TgEElOS
— Jeffie Lam (@jeffielam) June 12, 2019
The protesters said they sang it hoping it would have a calming effect on police, and would help diffuse tensions.
This was especially needed after police had earlier fired tear gas and shooting rubber bullets towards protesters.
The song also acted as a political shield, of sorts.
“According to the law, any religious assemblies in public areas are not considered as illegal, so if people sing hymns together, it could actually work as a protection and guarantee that [they] stay safe,” said Mr Chow.
“Therefore people started to sing this song to protect themselves.”