Do You Hear The People Sing

By Portia Mao

There are two French songs that have had a great impact on contemporary China. One is “L’Internationale”, and the other is “Do you hear the people sing” from the acclaimed musical phenomenon Les Misérables.

“L’Internationale” symbolized the communist revolution led by Chairman Mao Zedong. I remember school children singing the song at the end of every school assembly and every night the radio news program ended with the song when I was a little girl. “So comrades come rally. For this is the time and place, The international ideal Unites the human race”.

But nowadays, “Do you hear the people sing” is becoming more and more popular. Last year in Shanghai, audience sang the song together at the theatre after watching Les Misérables, the world’s most popular musical. In the last few months, protesters in Hong Kong kept singing the song and supporter of HK protest in Queen street of Auckland sang the song as well.

Les Misérables features many thrilling and beloved songs. However, when I heard the familiar melody at Auckland Civic Theatre on the last day of November, I couldn’t hold back my tears. – “Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men? It is the music of the people Who will not be slaves again……”

Civic Theater, Auckland

Indeed, this song is a “timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit”.