A popular Hong Kong singer and pro-democracy activist will not be allowed to perform at one of the city’s top theatres later this month, indicating that a crackdown by authorities on dissent is reaching the entertainment and cultural scene.
The Hong Kong Arts Centre cited a public safety clause in cancelling Denise Ho’s venue reservations for her concerts, according to a statement posted on Facebook by the singer’s company, Goomusic.
The cancellation came days after pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao accused Ms Ho of being “anti-China” due to her involvement in the 2019 pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Ms Ho is an outspoken activist and joined in widespread protests during the city’s Umbrella Movement in 2014 and later in 2019 that sought to protect Hong Kong’s longstanding civil liberties from mainland Chinese interference.
“We can’t help but ask how the Hong Kong Arts Centre, as an independent institution supporting contemporary art which has been operating for 44 years, can now arbitrarily suspend contracts without substantive evidence?” Goomusic said.
Ms Ho’s sold-out concerts were scheduled for September 8 to 12.
The cancellation has fed concerns that Hong Kong’s flourishing cultural scene, which was known in the past for its freedom of expression, is the latest target as Beijing tightens its control over the city.
Over the past year, Hong Kong authorities have arrested dozens of pro-democracy activists and pushed through electoral reforms that would reduce the number of directly elected legislators in the city.
Critics have accused Beijing and Hong Kong authorities of limiting 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 Centre cancelled the reservation under a clause stating it could terminate the booking of a venue if the person renting it failed to observe the terms and conditions in circumstances where “public order or public safety would be endangered”.
Ms Ho’s company said the Hong Kong Arts Centre had told Goomusic representatives it was “bound to observe closely the recent developments in society”.
The singer’s company said it would refund tickets and that the singer would livestream her concert 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 film director Kiwi Chow was fined 5,000 Hong Kong dollars (£468) for allegedly flouting coronavirus restrictions during a private film screening.
Mr Chow, who directed the films Ten Years and Revolution Of Our Times about the city’s democracy 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, since public gatherings in Hong Kong are limited to four people.
Mr Chow said the private screening was limited to friends only, saying on a local radio programme that he would not pay the fine and would take the case to court instead. The city’s social-distancing restrictions do not apply to private gatherings.
Meanwhile, seven pro-democracy activists were sentenced on Wednesday to between 11 and 16 months in jail for an unauthorised assembly during the anti-government protests in 2019.
The seven activists, including lawyer Albert Ho and Figo Chan, leader of the disbanded Civil Human Rights Front, had pleaded guilty to charges including organising and inciting others to take part in the unauthorised assembly on October 20 2019.