HONG KONG - Superstar singer Jacky Cheung, one of the four Heavenly Kings of Hong Kong pop music, has been criticised for a video he recorded marking the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule.
The territory marked the occasion on Friday (July 1) with a visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping and the swearing-in of a new chief executive, John Lee.
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Cheung, 60, recorded a 22-second video for Chinese state-owned broadcaster CCTV to commemorate the occasion.
In the clip, he says in Cantonese: "Hong Kong has experienced a lot of ups and downs in the past 25 years. But because I was born and grew up here, I still believe in this city and hope that it will become a better one than before. Add oil, Hong Kong."
The phrase "add oil" expresses encouragement and support, and was a popular rallying cry among Hong Kong's pro-democracy protestors during the height of their protests some three years ago.
The use of this phrase, and his failure to mention "return" or "motherland", reportedly drew the ire of Chinese netizens and CCTV swiftly pulled the clip.
Cheung was quick to respond to the online backlash, emphasising that his use of "add oil" was not a political statement.
"I personally cannot understand why 'Hong Kong, add oil' has become the yardstick in determining one's patriotism or is taboo because it was used by some people who made mistakes," he noted in a statement translated by SCMP.
"I hope that we Chinese people are rational and will convince people with reason," he added.
CCTV had also invited Cheung and other singers from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland to participate in an anniversary song.