22 October 2018
Joey Yung (left) and Charlene Choi have cast their votes in the referendum on electoral reform. Photos:,
Joey Yung (left) and Charlene Choi have cast their votes in the referendum on electoral reform. Photos:,

HK artists back referendum, but many keep low profile

Known for their fierce individualism, Hong Kong artists want Hong Kong people to know they are also seeking political reform.

They are using their celebrity status to encourage the public to participate in the civil referendum organized by the Occupy Central movement on the nomination process for candidates to the 2017 chief executive election.

People may think they are apolitical, but the truth is they want to participate in the discussion of burning issues of the day, they want to show that they can think independently, they want to get involved. 

But many of them are also maintaining a low profile in the political debates so as to avoid being labelled as anti-establishment or anti-Beijing. After all, mainland China is a major market for their songs and movies.

Since Occupy Central’s unofficial referendum started Friday last week, more than 700,000 people have cast their votes on how to choose the city’s next chief executive amid stern warnings from Hong Kong and Beijing officials.

Those who participated included representatives of the city’s artist community — painters, musicians, writers as well as movie stars.

Singer-songwriters Anthony Wong, Denise Ho, Hins Cheung and several artists from the Hong Kong Television Network stable came out on Friday. They even posted selfies on social media platforms showing them casting their votes.

During the weekend, local pop artists came out in droves. They included stars from the Emperor Entertainment Group like Joey Yung and Charlene Choi.

Choi said on her social media page that she participated in the referendum. Yung, one of the city’s top canto pop artists, snatched a dialogue from the Korean movie Attorney to voice her sentiments, saying the public must speak out against social injustice. 

Hins Cheung, another Emperor Entertainment artist, admits that his company does not allow artists to express their political views in an open, high-profile style. But still, that didn’t prevent him from changing his Facebook profile picture to a “Go Vote” graphic. 

Simple actions such as those involve some degree of courage given the fact that they don’t know how their fans and patrons across the border will react. They could get into trouble if they express views that run counter to the official line. 

Movie star Chapman To’s case could serve as an example. Chinese netizens called for a boycott of his movies after he voiced support for the Taiwanese students who occupied the Legislative Yuan to stop a service in trade agreement between Taipei and Beijing. To was not in Hong Kong for a month, apparently trying to avoid getting caught in the controversy over Occupy Central.

Meanwhile, singer Anthony Wong was blocked from Sina Weibo after he posted a blog calling on Hong Kong people to vote in the referendum.

Beijing certainly wants artists to know which side they should take on the raging political debate.

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EJ Insight writer

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