Apple Music has removed a song by Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung from its Chinese streaming service, with some questioning if the move was related to politically sensitive lyrics.

The song, the title of which translates to “The Path of Man,” was the theme music of the 1990 film A Chinese Ghost Story II. According to the late James Wong, who penned the lyrics, parts of the song were directly referring to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Jacky Cheung
Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung. File photo: Flickr, via genewang0123.

“The youth are angry, heaven and earth are weeping… How did our land become a sea of blood? How did the path home become a path of no return?” the lyrics read.

Chinese netizens reported over the weekend that the song was missing from Apple Music’s China service. Its removal was verified by Stand News, and the song was also nowhere to be seen on Tencent’s streaming service QQ Music.

The move has fueled speculation that the Chinese government was ramping up efforts to censor mentions of the June 4th incident, as this year would mark the 30th anniversary of the massacre.

The crackdown ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed against protesters in Beijing.

Artists removed

Last week, netizens also discovered that the songs of Hong Kong singer Anthony Wong were taken down from Apple Music’s China service. All songs from his band Tat Ming Pair were removed, except for one titled “Do you still love me?”

The songs of Hong Kong pro-democracy singer Denise Ho were similarly delisted, with the singer’s name not showing up in searches at all.

denise ho anthony wong
Denise Ho (Left) and Anthony Wong (Right). File photo: Karen Cheung/HKFP.

Both Wong and Ho had been supportive of pro-democracy protesters during the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

Songs by Cheung, Wong and Ho remain available on Apple Music services in Hong Kong, Taiwan and North America.

Since February 28, 2018, the iCloud services in mainland China have been operated by Chinese internet services company Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industrial Development (GCBD), a cooperative venture between the Guizhou provincial government and the Alibaba group.

HKFP has reached out to Apple for comment.

Kong Tsung-gan‘s new collection of essays – narrative, journalistic, documentary, analytical, polemical, and philosophical – trace the fast-paced, often bewildering developments in Hong Kong since the 2014 Umbrella Movement. As Long As There Is Resistance, There Is Hope is available exclusively through HKFP with a min. HK$200 donation. Thanks to the kindness of the author, 100 per cent of your payment will go to HKFP’s critical 2019 #PressForFreedom Funding Drive. 

funding drive press for freedom kong tsung-gan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.