You’ve probably heard of this Chinese alpaca music video. Ostensibly about the “grass mud horse’s” battles against “river crabs,” the nursery rhyme sounded uncomfortably close to “up your mum’s” and “never compromise” in Chinese. The song viraled in 2009 and made a mockery of Chinese laws prohibiting profane internet expressions. It also made music spoofs the medium of choice for public complaint.
To curb this meme, Hong Kong banned spoofs of copyrighted songs and made the crime punishable by a HK $50,000 fine and up to four years in prison. Immediately, people overlaid these lyrics over a music video to say this:
On the Chinese internet, flouting official law is a form of sport, not always tied to any political issue, but mostly done for the fun of it. Besides the Weird Al-ish thrill of punking a ubiquitous pop song, altering song lyrics prove a good way to smuggle dissent on to the internet in a way that’s difficult to search.
1. A misheard version of 王麟’s “You Can’t Hurt Me”
In 2011, an internet celebutante called Guo Mei Mei flaunted photos of her white Maserati, orange Lamborghini, business-class flights and horseback riding vacations online. What irked people was that she claimed to be on the board of the Chinese Red Cross, and was dating a charity director at an affiliate fund. The scandal went viral on Weibo and highlighted a crisis of faith in Chinese philanthropy and disaster relief. For most of 2011, “rich woman” was a blocked search term.
According to Sina News, China has seen at least 18 cases of mass poisoning from pork tainted with beta-adrenergic agonist, a banned additive that causes dizziness, vomiting, and heart palpitations in humans. It has caused at least one death in China.
2. “The Sound of Inflation,” an altered version of Feng Fei Fei’s classic, “The Sound of Applause”
Turning a classic ballad into a country-punk whinge on economic inequality.
3. “Jammed To The Edge of Heaven,” a parody of 陈少华’s “Wine on September Ninth”
Chinese New Year in 2010 saw the world’s longest traffic jam stretching from Beijing to Inner Mongolia, with cars moving as slow as two miles per day, forcing drivers to camp out in their automobiles.
This most upvoted comment on this music video suggests an essential packing list for braving highway traffic jams: hot water, blankets, spare batteries, mahjong, playing cards, and instant ramen.
4. A Hong Kong version of the 2008 Beijing Olympic’s theme song
The lyrics above replace “we are ready / our hearts together live in harmony.”
“Locusts” is an offensive slur for Mainland Chinese visitors who allegedly crowd Hong Kong on holidays, buy out local goods, drive up property prices, and overburden Hong Kong hospitals and welfare. Even before this subway fight video went viral, tensions between Hong Kong residents and mainlanders have run high, with both sides hurling Youtube-grade ethnic, colonial, and socio-economic insults. The Telegraph reports that the number of Hong Kong residents who don’t identify as Chinese doubled since China’s takeover 17 years ago.
6. “My Dad Is Li Gang,” an edit of “I Am Little Shenyang”
In 2010, Li Qiming became the most hated man in China after he plowed through two Hebei University students while drunk driving and tried to speed away. When onlookers intercepted his car, he shouted: “my dad’s Li Gang!” and dared anyone to arrest him. One of his victims died the next day. You can read the rest of the dismaying story here, but this music video makes clear what the internet makes of this incident.