HONG KONG (AFP) - A pro-democracy Hong Kong singer on Sunday (June 19)` staged a free concert after sponsor Lancome pulled out - allegedly due to pressure from mainland China - and urged her audience to fight repression.
Playing her guitar on an open-air stage, Denise Ho sang to hundreds of waving fans packed onto the streets of the Sheung Wan district in a 90-minute show.
The gig was originally organised by the French cosmetics giant but was axed by Lancome earlier this month citing "possible safety reasons".
That decision prompted protests at the brand's beauty counters in the city and calls to boycott its products.
Many in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city believe the move was a reaction to comments in Chinese state-run media. These criticised Lancome for cooperating with the singer.
The cancellation came amid growing fears that Beijing is tightening its grip on the city.
Ho went ahead with the concert despite the lack of sponsorship and made it free of charge.
"In Hong Kong, suppression is going on... we need to resist," she told reporters.
"Even when we don't speak up the suppression will not go away, more will happen," she said.
She said other brands which had been interested in partnerships with her pulled out after the controversy over the concert.
Concertgoer Venus Lau said she supported Ho for reminding Hong Kong people they are free.
"We have our freedom to speak whatever we want," Lau said.
Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement and enjoys much greater liberties than mainland China.
But there are growing fears its freedoms and semi-autonomous status are under threat in areas ranging from politics to education and media.
On Saturday more than 1,000 people took to the streets to protest at the detention in China of a Hong Kong bookseller known for titles critical of Beijing.
Lam Wing-kee made explosive revelations last week of his gruelling ordeal at the hands of the Chinese authorities, including being blindfolded and interrogated during an eight-month detention.