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Occupy Central

Thousands turn out for Denise Ho concert: other brands dumped me after Lancome, she says

Pro-democracy performer hits out at the ‘suppression’ of free speech before giving a concert for up to 4,000 fans

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2016, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 June, 2016, 4:20pm

Canto-pop star and pro-democratic activist Denise Ho Wan-sze claims the Lancome incident was “not an isolated one” and that other brands have also approached her and cancelled projects.

She was speaking to the media on Sunday before performing for thousands of fans gathered at Sheung Wan’s hip Po Hing Fong enclave for her reorganised “The Beauty of We” concert. Organisers said between 3,000 and 4,000 fans attended.

The singer hosted the free concert two weeks after cosmetics giant Lancome called off a performance following sharp criticism of the entertainer by mainland internet users. There were reports last week that mouthwash brand Listerine had also dropped Ho from a marketing campaign.

Show goes on for Denise Ho with free Hong Kong concert after Lancome scrapped her event

She said that from the start, her team had been given a message that authorities from the mainland had been applying “top down” pressure on the French cosmetics giant and that was the reason Lancome had issued the two statements.

“We have tried to press for answers [from Lancome] but the feeling is that they don’t want to or are unwilling to respond,” Ho said.

Ho said that in general the entertainment and commerce sectors were frequently coming under similar pressure, but would choose to tolerate it rather than speak out.

“Not voicing out doesn’t mean the issue will go away. The suppression will only go further,” she said. “I choose to counter authoritarianism and say no to such suppression of freedom of speech and expression.”

She also thanked bookseller Lam Wing-kei for “speaking out for Hongkongers under such dangerous circumstances”.

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee leads thousands in protest through streets of Hong Kong

Under intense heat and humidity, fans and supporters ranging from students to seniors to diehard mainland fans (who had come to Hong Kong specifically for the event) – crowded around a tiny outdoor area at the 3rd Space cafe.

Some held up yellow umbrellas – symbols of 2014’s Occupy protests – to shade themselves from the sun, while others engaged in heated political debate over the latest news in the missing booksellers saga.

It was not the average Canto-pop concert. “I don’t understand politics much but I support her ideals,” said one mainland university student who came to the city on a same-day return visit to attend the concert.

She requested anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the matter.

The student said she had been a supporter of Ho ever since seeing her taking a stand for democracy during the Occupy movement.

“Ho still has an army of fans on the mainland but of course they now support her discreetly,” she said.

The concert was rescheduled to Sunday after French cosmetics giant Lancome made a snap decision to cancel a concert it had co-organised with the singer this month.

The cancellation followed an attack by Beijing tabloid The Global Times, which accused Lancome of inviting a “Hong Kong independence advocate”.

Hongkonger Eva Chim Yuk-king, 67, admitted she did not fit the average demographic of Ho’s fanbase but was an admirer of her music and had been a fan of the late pop diva Anita Mui, who had also mentored Ho.

Chim, who took part in the Occupy protests, said she was also attending the concert to show her support for Ho.

“The [Lancome] incident was ridiculous. It made me really angry,” she said.

“Companies bow down to [commercial and mainland] pressure so easily these days. I support Ho because she still has a backbone.”

Student and Ho fan Yuko Chan, 23, said she was not only attending the concert for the music but also as a show of support against the companies that had dropped Ho in their advertising campaigns.

“Companies such as Lancome do not respect artists. I was more furious than disappointed when the first concert was cancelled,” she said.

Administrative worker Nat Cheung, 26, said the mainland government misunderstood Ho’s fans in that most supported her for her music rather than her politics.

“The truth is many people have never related her music with her political views,” Cheung said.