Hong Kong’s top singer loses concert hall amid crackdown

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FILE – In this file photo from June 8, 2016, Cantonese pop singer Denise Ho speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Popular Hong Kong singer and pro-democracy activist Ho will not be allowed to perform at any of Hong Kong’s top theaters later in September 2021, days after a pro-Beijing newspaper accused her of ‘be anti-China. (AP Photo / Vincent Yu, file)

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A popular Hong Kong singer and pro-democracy activist will not be allowed to perform at any of the city’s top theaters later this month, indicating that a crackdown by authorities on dissent is reaching the entertainment and culture scene.

The Hong Kong Arts Center cited a public safety clause in canceling Denise Ho’s room reservations for her concerts, according to a statement posted on Facebook Wednesday by the singer’s company, Goomusic.

The cancellation came days after pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao accused Ho of being “anti-China” because of his involvement in the 2019 pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Ho is an outspoken activist and participated in large protests during the city’s Umbrella Movement in 2014 and later in 2019 that aimed to protect Hong Kong’s long-standing civil liberties from Chinese interference. continental.

“One can’t help but wonder how the Hong Kong Arts Center, as an independent institution supporting contemporary art that has existed for 44 years, can now arbitrarily suspend contracts without substantial evidence? Goomusic said.

The Hong Kong Arts Center did not immediately comment.

Ho’s sold-out concerts were scheduled for September 8-12.

The cancellation has fueled fears that Hong Kong’s thriving cultural scene, which in the past was known for its free speech, could be the latest target as Beijing tightens its control over the city.

Over the past year, authorities in Hong Kong have arrested dozens of pro-democracy activists and passed electoral reforms that would reduce the number of directly elected lawmakers in the city.

Critics have accused authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong of limiting the freedoms promised to the city when it was handed over by the British to mainland China in 1997.

According to Goomusic, the Hong Kong Arts Center canceled the reservation under a clause stating that it could terminate the reservation of a place if the person renting the place did not comply with the terms and conditions in circumstances where “the public order or public safety would be endangered. . “

Ho’s company said the Hong Kong Arts Center told Goomusic representatives that it was “obliged to closely observe recent developments in the company.”

Ho’s company said it will reimburse ticket buyers and the singer will broadcast her concert live instead on September 12.

“We may face constraints in performance venues, but the stage itself is not limited by boundaries,” Goomusic said.

The cancellation came days after Hong Kong director Kiwi Chow was fined 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($ 640) for allegedly flouting coronavirus restrictions at a private film screening .

Chow, who directed the films “Ten Years” and “Revolution of our Times” on the city’s democratic movement, held a private screening of his film “Beyond the Dream” last week.

Authorities raided the screening and accused attendees of flouting social distancing rules, as public gatherings in Hong Kong are currently limited to four people.

Chow said the private screening was limited to friends only, telling a local radio show that he would not pay the fine and take the case to court instead. The city’s social distancing restrictions do not apply to private gatherings.

Separately, seven pro-democracy activists were sentenced Wednesday to between 11 and 16 months in prison for an unauthorized rally during the 2019 anti-government protests.

The seven activists, including lawyer Albert Ho and Figo Chan, head of the dissolved Civil Front for Human Rights, pleaded guilty to charges, including organization and incitement to participate in the meeting not authorized of October 20, 2019.

Of the seven, only one – Raphael Wong of the League of Social Democrats political party – was not already serving a prison sentence.

The other six were sentenced earlier for other unauthorized gatherings.

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