HKFP Exclusive

“If we were in a free society, in a civilised society, political pressure shouldn’t cross the border to affect business decisions,” pro-democracy Canto-pop singer Denise Ho Wan-see told HKFP on Monday.

Ho held a concert at Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan on Sunday, at the same location and same date as a now-cancelled Lancôme concert in which Ho was due to perform. The cosmetic giant controversially scrapped the event due to “safety reasons” after Chinese media linked Ho with Hong Kong and Tibetan independence movements, sparking protests.

denise ho
Stephanie Shum. Photo: Denise Ho.

Around 3,000 people attended the concert on Sunday. Ho said she was “moved” that so many people came to the event. “The spot where I was singing, it couldn’t contain so many people – so many people were on the stairs and way over on the side. They actually couldn’t see me but they still remained there for the whole show. They were watching the Facebook live [stream] around the corner,” she told HKFP.

“The reason for me to have re-organised this event was to make a point that we do not agree with all the suppression that is happening in Hong Kong right now,” she said, “I think the people who came yesterday, many weren’t my fans and they were just everyday normal Hong Kong people who want to stand out to voice out what they believe in. That was the whole point of the whole concert.”

Politics and business: Inseparable ties?

Ho said that the distinction between politics and business is now “quite blurred.”

“Looking back on my incident with Lancôme, from what I understood, it was pressure coming from the Chinese department of their company,” she said.

See also: L’Oreal offer Denise Ho compensation after controversial Canto-pop concert cancellation

“So what is behind the whole decision? For me it’s quite obvious, it’s the fear of losing such a market,” said Ho, “the fact that I was suppressed or, you know, [that] I was banned from certain markets because I stood out and spoke about democracy or spoke out for human rights – that is the proof that the political side and the commercial or business side is quite mashed together right now.”

Denise Ho Concert
Denise Ho at Po Hing Fong on Sunday. Photo: Stephanie Shum via Facebook.

The missing booksellers

She also thanked Lam Wing-kee, the recently returned bookseller and one of the five who went missing last year, for speaking up about his experience. Lam claimed in a surprise press conference last Thursday that he was kidnapped in Shenzhen last October and ill-treated by a “special unit” separate from official mainland police.

“The reason [Lam] stood out to say all the things he said was to protect this place that is Hong Kong – the place that we all love,” said Ho.

“I think many Hong Kong people would realise that for him to come out to say all these things in public, he might be in quite a dangerous spot right now.” She said that she hoped more people would speak out for themselves to protect Lam, and each other, from “white terror and all the things that are happening in Hong Kong.”

lam wing-kee
Lam Wing-kee. Photo: Gene Lin/HKFP.

Ho said that she felt that One Country, Two Systems was “draining away” and that she hoped that Lam’s message could inspire many who “think that we do not have the choice while facing this enormous machine that is the Chinese government” to speak up.

At a press conference last Thursday, Lam declared “I can [speak out], why can’t you?”

By Chantal Yuen, Kris Cheng, Tom Grundy and Gene Lin.

Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.