22 August 2019
Stand-up comedian Dayo Wong (L) is said to be among the Occupy supporters who have been blacklisted by TVB's Sandy Yu (R). Photos: HKEJ
Stand-up comedian Dayo Wong (L) is said to be among the Occupy supporters who have been blacklisted by TVB's Sandy Yu (R). Photos: HKEJ

Troubling times for entertainment celebrities

When it comes to the crunch, it is money and career that matter more than one’s political beliefs. 

This is the message that many entertainment celebrities in Hong Kong are sending out now as they avoid association with the Occupy protests or even publicly denounce the mass sit-ins.

Following a not-too-subtle warning from Beijing of potential boycotts by mainland audiences, celebrity support for the pro-democracy movement has dwindled, with people putting their careers first. 

Some singers and actors have, of course, boldly stood up and voiced support for the demonstrators, but on the whole the industry has begun to hunker down.

As the Occupy protests are set to enter their eighth week, and with Chinese President Xi Jinping making his stance clear on the “illegal” movement, celebrities think it is better to play safe and protect their careers.

Netizens in the mainland have been circulating a document, purportedly from some government authority, that calls for a ban on artists who support the Hong Kong protests.

Pop singers Denise Ho and Anthony Wong and movie actor Chapman To, who had openly backed the protesters by visiting the Occupy site in Admiralty, were among those said to be facing a boycott in China.

And artists such as Joey Yung, Hins Cheung and Gloria Tang – who is better known by her stage name G.E.M.– who had indicated sympathy for the protesters through social media, are said to be on the list of performers that will get limited exposure in the mainland.

Any performance by them will need prior approval from the government.

Such pressure could be the reason why Yung, who had earlier posted a picture of a yellow ribbon on her social network page, has now removed the photo. Speaking to the media recently, she also urged the protesters to go home.

Movie director Wong Ching is another celebrity who has spelt out his anti-Occupy stand and “unfriended” some local artists who supported the street protests. Wong criticized people such as Denise Ho and Anthony Wong for their anti-Beijing stand, saying the artists were forgetting that it is the mainland market that brought them most of their fame and riches.

Meanwhile, there is speculation that Television Broadcasts (TVB), Hong Kong’s biggest free-to-air TV broadcaster, has a list of artists that are barred from its programs and shows. The decision is said to have been made by Sandy Yu, the station’s director of production for variety shows/non-drama department.

Artists such as Dayo Wong and Stephen Au, as well as pop singers Hins Cheung, Paul Wong, Steve Wong and Kay Tse, who have expressed support for Occupy, are said to be on the list.

If it is true, such ban will not be in the long-term interests of TVB as well as that of the overall Hong Kong media industry. If artists have to demonstrate their loyalty to authorities if they want a chance to perform, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the local media and entertainment sector.

Of course, every broadcaster has the right to choose its performers. But if the rumors turn out correct, TVB appears to be taking a more aggressive stance than even Beijing authorities.

Dayo Wong, who is well-known for his stand-up comedy, was still able to perform in Guangzhou recently, even though he expressed support to Occupy at a show in Hong Kong last month. Steven Au also went to mainland China without any problem.

So, is TVB being more loyal than the king? 

Whatever the truth is, one thing is clear: These are troubling times for entertainment celebrities in Hong Kong.

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EJ Insight writer

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