The easiest way to get locked up in China!

China will soon become the latest country to ban mocking of its national anthem. Well, that’s not entirely true. You will still be free to change the lyrics to make a satirical point, and you’ll also still be free to boo it – you’ll just have to deal with 15 days in prison afterwards!

The country’s politicians are discussing draft legislation to control performances of March of the Volunteers, which includes banning it at funerals. Two years ago, they banned it from weddings. Who on earth would want to play their national anthem at their funeral?

Apparently one lawmaker even wants to ban people putting their hand on their heart when the anthem’s played, as it looks too American.

Is this just a silly news story for everyone to laugh at for a couple of days, then quickly forget? Unfortunately not, as it will have an immediate impact, especially in Hong Kong where football fans have regularly booed the anthem at international matches. Would they dare do that now if they face 15 days in prison?

Changing anthem lyrics is also one of the easiest ways to make a political point – read my book, and you’ll find examples of it done everywhere from South Africa to Uruguay – and I guess that outlet will now disappear in the country. Sometimes a silly news story is actually a lot more important.

March of the Volunteers is, though, still a cracking anthem:

The year’s greatest football – and musical – protest

Back in June, Hong Kong football fans started booing – and I mean booing – China’s national anthem as a way of protesting that country’s rule of the province.

FIFA, being FIFA, decided to fine the Hong Kong FA for those boos and demanded they never happened again.

So how did Hong Kong fans react last month? By doing this:

Hong Kong fans 'boo' the Chinese national anthem March of the Volunteers before a football/soccer match

Yes, amazing!

FIFA has unsurprisingly launched an investigation.

Recently, I met a student from Hong Kong at one of my book talks who told me that many people there actually consider their ‘national anthem’ to be a cheesy pop song called Below the Lion Rock (rather than China’s March of the Volunteers).

Performed by Cantopop legend Ramon Tam, it’s the theme tune to a 1970s TV show and it has the sort of appalling lyrics you’d expect of the theme tune to a 1970s TV show (“In life we’re sometimes glad / But we’ll also be sad”) so it’s somewhat surprising it’s become a rallying cry, especially for pro-democracy protesters.

But if you don’t believe me, here’s a video of said monstrosity set to a montage of last year’s Hong Kong student protests. I hope someone re-edits it to cut in those kids holding up the “Boo” signs!

Taylor Swift, the Chinese government and an Indian anarchist walk into a bar

Taylor Swift money

I unsurprisingly have a LOT of alerts set up to catch national anthem stories. Right now, you’d think those would be dominated by the news that China’s banning people from playing its national anthem at weddings, or even the fact an Indian anarchist’s just spent 35 days in jail after refusing to stand for his.

But they’re not. Instead they’re filled with 14-year-olds from Wisconsin posting the words “Heartbreak is the national anthem” as if they’ve just been dumped.

Heartbreak is the national anthem tweet

Which would be incredibly annoying if those words weren’t taken from one of the greatest pop tracks of the year: Taylor Swift’s New Romantics.

It’s a song about trying to be strong in the face of arseholes – something we can all identify with I’m sure you agree, and far more than we can with people playing national anthems at weddings. WHY ON EARTH WOULD ANYONE PLAY AN ANTHEM AT A WEDDING WHEN THEY COULD PLAY TAYLOR SWIFT? HAVEN’T THEY HEARD SHAKE IT OFF?

Unfortunately, I can’t post New Romantics as Taylor’s banned herself from the Internet, so go and listen to it on iTunes or, y’know, at least head off and watch that clip of her rapping along to Kendrick Lamar.

(The photo at the top of this post is stolen from Billboard. Yes, I’m a very bad man.)