Taking sides

Many Hong Kong celebs keep mum as protests split entertainment industry

Among the few willing to air their views are actor Jackie Chan (above left) who has called himself a China "flag-bearer", singer Alan Tam (above right) who has openly backed the police, and singer Denise Ho (waving in main picture) who has been vocal
Among the few willing to air their views are actor Jackie Chan who has called himself a China "flag-bearer", singer Alan Tam who has openly backed the police, and singer Denise Ho (waving in main picture) who has been vocal in her support of the protesters. She is seen showing a banner containing messages together with other activists in Washington, DC on Sept 21. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, JOYCE LEE, UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT
Among the few willing to air their views are actor Jackie Chan (above left) who has called himself a China "flag-bearer", singer Alan Tam (above right) who has openly backed the police, and singer Denise Ho (waving in main picture) who has been vocal
Among the few willing to air their views are actor Jackie Chan (above) who has called himself a China "flag-bearer", singer Alan Tam who has openly backed the police, and singer Denise Ho who has been vocal in her support of the protesters. She is seen showing a banner containing messages together with other activists in Washington, DC on Sept 21.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, JOYCE LEE, UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT
Among the few willing to air their views are actor Jackie Chan (above left) who has called himself a China "flag-bearer", singer Alan Tam (above right) who has openly backed the police, and singer Denise Ho (waving in main picture) who has been vocal
Among the few willing to air their views are actor Jackie Chan who has called himself a China "flag-bearer", singer Alan Tam (above) who has openly backed the police, and singer Denise Ho who has been vocal in her support of the protesters. She is seen showing a banner containing messages together with other activists in Washington, DC on Sept 21. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, JOYCE LEE, UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT

HONG KONG • The anti-government protests that have roiled Hong Kong for four months have also split the city's influential entertainment community, with stars who weigh in doing so at the risk of alienating fans on either side of the often bitter divide.

While many performers have been careful not to be seen taking sides, others whose political stances were already known have been more willing to be heard.

Veteran singer Alan Tam has openly backed the Hong Kong police, attending a pro-police rally in June.

When he was unable to get a table at a crowded Hong Kong restaurant earlier this month and left instead of waiting, some customers clapped, according to a report in the Ming Pao newspaper.

Tam's measured response on his Twitter-like Weibo account - "People with different political stances have different reactions. They don't respect me, but I respect them. I will go eat again next time" - won him plaudits on mainland Chinese social media.

Singer Denise Ho, known for her social activism, has been forthright in her support of the protesters.

"Real freedom can't be eradicated... It's our civic duty to continue to go to the streets," she posted on Facebook earlier this month.

Action star Jackie Chan has long pledged his allegiance to Beijing, describing himself last month as a "flag-bearer" after protesters in Hong Kong desecrated China's national flag.

Hong Kong's Cantonese-language films, television shows and pop songs enjoyed outsized popularity for years among audiences in mainland China and beyond but nowadays, its stars must be able to speak and sing in Mandarin if they want to make it big.

Politics has long been perilous for Chinese-language artists, with self-ruled and democratic Taiwan - considered by China to be a wayward province - also a potential minefield, especially as many well-known singers come from there.

In 2000, China banned top Taiwan pop singer Chang Hui-mei, better known as A-mei, for a year after she performed at the inauguration of Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian, viewed by Beijing as a dangerous separatist.

Hong Kong's Aaron Kwok, one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Cantopop, caused a brief stir this month when he found himself surrounded in his Lamborghini by protesters blocking roads, but would not be drawn on his views on the protests, according to media reports.

"I'm getting diapers for my daughter," he told reporters.

Others have been outspoken.

Macau-born singer, TV personality and film star Maria Cordero, affectionately called Fat Mama by fans, has supported the Hong Kong police and government.

But a mash-up of a speech by Cordero at a pro-government rally, combined with the song Chandelier by Sia, was turned into an anti-police anthem, Fat Mama Has Something To Say, that has in recent weeks been shouted at police by masked protesters.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 29, 2019, with the headline 'Many HK celebs keep mum as protests split entertainment industry '. Print Edition | Subscribe