CULTURE
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Occupy Central

Singer says job drought after supporting Occupy worth the sacrifice

Anthony Wong has endured six lean months since supporting last year's pro-democracy protests, but says the sacrifice is worth it

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 May, 2015, 2:09am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2015, 8:57am

Fronting Hong Kong's largest political movement last year had a cost - six months of joblessness - but Anthony Wong Yiu-ming says he has no regrets.

To the singer-songwriter, defending the city's freedom of speech and advocating democracy come before posing on the glamorous stage.

"I don't regret it," Wong told the South China Morning Post. "If we don't fight now, we will miss this chance to do something for Hong Kong and make our society a better city."

Soon after police in riot gear fired tear gas at protesters on September 28, Wong called on fellow artists, cultural figures and academia, including singer Denise Ho Wan-see, to form Hong Kong Shield to show support for student protesters.

Watch: Why Canto-pop singer Anthony Wong still has hope for Hong Kong

Throughout the 79 days of Occupy protests, Wong and his comrades camped with tens of thousands of fellow protesters in Harcourt Road, Admiralty.

At times, Wong, Ho and singer-cum-actress Deanie Ip took to the stage in protest sites to sing and speak to protesters during what was dubbed the "umbrella movement".

Wong was widely praised as a hero among protesters for being one of a handful of celebrities standing up for them. But in return he found himself out of work for six months - unable to secure jobs not only on the mainland but also in Hong Kong.

Wong, who established himself as a well-respected artist by forming the music duo Tat Ming Pair in the 1980s, said he had been touring the mainland to stage concerts and took on occasional celebrity endorsements.

"But throughout the six months after the umbrella movement was over, I didn't have one single job," said the singer, who was recently honoured at the Hong Kong Film Awards for best original song, for director Pang Ho-cheung's drama Aberdeen.

Wong, who was reportedly banned from the mainland along with Ho, said he was prepared to lose job opportunities across the border. Previously scheduled performances were cancelled.

"But not getting even one job in Hong Kong is strange, and it is worrying," he said. Wong suspects that those who have business interests in the mainland are not hiring performers who had high-profile associations with the Occupy protests.

"It is true that it affects my income, but what is more [important] is that Hong Kong's freedom of speech is under threat," he said.

Wong's support for the umbrella movement has also affected the Renaissance Foundation, a charitable cultural organisation he co-founded to promote the arts and culture among youngsters and cultural exchanges between Hong Kong, the mainland, Taiwan and Macau.

Funding that had been anticipated from the mainland is now unlikely to be realised, he says.

But Wong pledges to carry on the foundation's operation.

He believes cultural education of young people will make a difference.

"Arts and culture can change people's hearts, and prepare them for a … society where freedom of expression is guarded and creative works can be produced without self-censorship."