Pianist moved by plight of refugees in Hong Kong to hold fundraising show

Cristina Ortiz’s ‘impromptu concert’ will generate HK$100,000 for a charity to launch mentorship programme

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 8:35pm

An internationally renowned pianist has volunteered to hold a private concert to raise funds and awareness for the plight of refugees in Hong Kong.

Cristina Ortiz will perform an “impromptu concert” on Thursday night as a last-minute addition to her concert tour of Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore after learning about their situation on arrival in the city on Monday.

“My mind was completely blown away,” the Brazil-born and London-based pianist told the Post on Wednesday.

“I asked the charity people what I could do to help. I don’t do very much. I can cook and I can play beautiful music, which is a universal language that should be used for good causes.”

Hong Kong’s refugee claim system leaves many tough questions

Free to Run, a local charity for refugees focusing on vulnerable women and children, will be the beneficiary.

Virginie Goethals, a former New York lawyer and now full-time volunteer with the charity, said: “These refugees live under very difficult circumstances as they are not allowed to work and the process of approval is very slow.”

Hong Kong does not resettle asylum seekers, because it is not a signatory to the UN Refugee onvention. Refugees are resettled elsewhere but the screening and approval procedure is slow. The average waiting time for resettlement was six years, according to Goethals, but in some cases it took more than 10 years.

Goethals was working with 36 women and 20 children from 17 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

“Many of them have been tortured and sexually abused in their home countries and we hope to build up their physical and mental strength so that they will be able to integrate into society,” she said.

By raising HK$100,000 at the concert, the charity would be able to launch a mentorship programme to benefit 20 refugees a year in addition to the existing activities such as running and swimming the refugees take part in on a weekly basis.

The private concert in Pok Fu Lam will feature music by Chopin, who left his home country of Poland aged 20 and never went back.

“I hope these people will be able to go back to their country, although I doubt if that will ever happen,” Ortiz said.

“I am not a refugee, but I left my country when I was 15, and I can tell you I am more Brazilian now than I ever was. The longer you live abroad, the more your roots would come up.”

The hurt could be substantial for someone to have nowhere to go and just wait in a foreign land like Hong Kong, she said.

“If you listen to just two bars of Chopin’s music, you can feel his longing for his home country, and that’s what I want to convey through the music I play, which I hope will move the audience to leave a little contribution to help the needy.”