Renowned artist Kacey Wong staged his performance piece The Loveliest Person on Monday evening, dressed as a dead soldier playing a funeral version of the Chinese national anthem.

Wong wore a spoiled khaki green uniform with a combat helmet as he played Frédéric Chopin’s funeral march Piano Sonata No.2, overlaid with China’s March of the Volunteers, on the accordion. The artist paced around a pedestrian street in Causeway Bay’s busy retail district for two hours, pausing periodically to salute at passersby. He told HKFP the performance was about the “evil” of patriotism.

Kacey Wong. Photo: PH Yang.

Under a proposal set to be enacted this year, anyone who publicly and wilfully alters the lyrics or the score of March of the Volunteersperforms or sings the anthem in a derogatory manner, or insults the song, risks a penalty of up to HK$50,000 and three years behind bars. The draft national anthem law has been tabled at the legislature.

Wong said the impending bill is all the more reason to perform his version of the national anthem, “before the gate of creative freedom finally closes on all of us.”

See also: Kacey Wong: Hong Kong’s ‘cultural fireman’ on finding the bright side in dark times

The artist said his performance was inspired by an article he read about an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife, Peng Liyuan, allegedly singing the song The Loveliest Person to People’s Liberation Army soldiers after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre: “I find that contradictory and full of dilemma,” Wong said.

The massacre occurred on June 4 1989, ending months of student-led democracy demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the military was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing.

Wong said in previous years he performed on the eve of the anniversary of the crackdown as a ghost of a student killed but that, this year, he wanted to depict a soldier.

“I noticed performers often portray the suffering of the students but the suffering of the soldiers was never portrayed. I want to sort of fill that gap,” he said. “My concept is that under the death machine of nationalism, nobody is immune and no one can escape – not the students, not normal citizens, not even soldiers.”

Other artists lined the streets performing pieces relating to June 4 and freedom of expression, including a man who recreated the iconic “Tank Man” image while flicking lit candles at a row of cardboard.

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Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.