Olympics Lip-Sync Story Triggers Censors
Olympics Lip-Sync Story Triggers Censors

Two Chinese women walk past a painting of a Red Guard from China's Cultural Revolution period at an art exhibit in Shanghai. Parts of a 1950s devotional hymn to the Chinese Communist Party were changed or cut for the Olympics opening ceremony and internet censors have worked hard to keep stories of the singer switch off Chinese websites. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
Two Chinese women walk past a painting of a Red Guard from China's Cultural Revolution period at an art exhibit in Shanghai. Parts of a 1950s devotional hymn to the Chinese Communist Party were changed or cut for the Olympics opening ceremony and internet censors have worked hard to keep stories of the singer switch off Chinese websites. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
Of all forgeries in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, none have been as fiercely suppressed as the lip-syncing debacle during the opening ceremonies on August 8.

That, according to some China analysts, is because of the sensitive nature of the song that was sung.

Initially, the world was charmed by the adorable face of nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, who sang at the opening ceremony. After it emerged that Miaoke was merely the pretty face for the voice of seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, stories in the international press turned ugly.

Opening ceremony musical director Chen Qigang explained in radio interview afterwards that the decision to use one girl's voice and the other's face was made “for the benefit and the image of the country — no blemish is to be accommodated.”

Chen said the decision was made by a member of the all-powerful Chinese Politburo. Yang was the better singer but was not chosen as the “face” of the song because of her apparently crooked teeth.

Initially, Internet users in China could read these stories, but by August 13 the Chinese Communist Party’s infamous army of Internet censors had caught up.

If you type "Lin Miaoke fake singing" in Chinese on google.com outside of China, you will get 144,000 results. But if you type the same thing on popular search engines in China such as Google's China-talored google.com.cn and baidu.com, you will be told content can not be displayed due to related laws, or policies.

According to Wuyue Sanren, a well known commenter for a number of Chinese media in Beijing, when foreign media first started reporting the lip sync scandal, the Chinese press got orders from above that this news was itself fake.

The following day, says Wuyue, new instructions were handed down telling the Chinese media not to discuss the incident at all and to delete any reference to it.

However, news of the fake fireworks on Olympic opening night has not been censored.

One reason why this is so sensitive in China may be because of the nature of the song the two girls collaborated to present.

The song is called “Ode to the Motherland,” a classic devotional hymn to the Communist Party. The song is well known by all Chinese educated under the Party and is charged with fierce Communist sentiments.

Some commentators have suggested that faking the performance of such a significant piece of propaganda is particularly embarrassing to a regime desperate to maintain legitimacy to an increasingly disillusioned population.

The song was originally written in 1950 and at the time won high praise from Mao Zedong who personally met with the writer, comrade Wang Xin.

Mao was leader of China's communist revolution and ruled from 1949 to 1976. Without the aid of a war, during his tenure Mao orchestrated numerous waves of persecution which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 80 million Chinese citizens.

The song’s lyrics are full of nationalism and revolutionary loyalty to the Party. However, parts of it were changed from the original version for the Olympics and the following verses were cut completely from the song.

“We love peace, we love home,
But if anyone dares to infringe upon our peaceful home,
We will render him to death!”

The meaning of the song — and the changes to it — was likely lost on foreign viewers as no translation was provided during the telecast. But it was certainly not lost on the Chinese.

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