Hong Kong Canto-pop star Denise Ho barred from playing in Malaysia ‘because of her support for LGBT people’

Singer, also known for her pro-democracy stance, had planned to play in Kuala Lumpur in April. But officials in the Southeast Asian nation, where homosexuality is illegal, cite ‘number of issues’ with that plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 10:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2018, 4:24pm

Hong Kong Canto-pop star and pro-democracy activist Denise Ho Wan-sze has been barred from holding a concert in Malaysia in April, she announced on Thursday, saying officials pulled the plug due to her support for the LGBT community.

In a Facebook post, Ho apologised to her fans and revealed that Malaysian authorities had turned down her application for a permit to perform.

She said members of her team had been told over the phone earlier this week that their application would not be approved “because [Ho] is an active supporter of the LGBT community”. They received an official rejection letter on Thursday.

But the letter only said her application had been turned down because “a number of issues need to be addressed if the artist is brought in for the performance in this country”.

“My dearest friends in Malaysia, I am very sorry,” Ho wrote. “The world is not as progressive as we imagine; that I know. But I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed for being once again turned down for my identity.”

Malaysia’s Central Agency for the Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

Salleh Said Kuruak, the Malaysian minister for communication and multimedia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday that all performances in the country had to be done in accordance with “local law and values”, but did not specify a reason for Ho’s rejection.

Homosexuality is outlawed in Malaysia and, under a colonial-era sodomy law, offenders can go to prison for 20 years.

“Not being able to hold a concert isn’t such a big deal. But time and time again, [these] bans show us, who live under relative freedom, that the civilisation we take as natural and right is not so natural after all.”

Ho, who came out as a lesbian in 2012, had planned to hold a leg of her tour in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of the predominantly Muslim Southeast Asian country, on April 14. Other stops in Asia include Singapore and Taiwan.

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A representative for Ho said the singer had not been to Malaysia for work since 2006. While the team had been concerned about a possible rejection, they decided to go ahead with the plans because Ho has a large fan base there, she said.

She added that the team was arranging a refund for the deposit on the venue, which had been booked in advance, and that the shows in Singapore and Taiwan were not affected. Performances in the US and Canada in May were still being planned.

Ho vowed to continue fighting for the rights of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transsexual people.

The singer, a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, has also been blacklisted in mainland China.

Controversy erupted in June 2016 after cosmetics giant Lancome announced it was cancelling a promotional event in Hong Kong at which Ho was scheduled to perform, allegedly because of her political stance.

The drama happened a day after Beijing newspaper Global Times wrote on Weibo condemning Lancome for “inviting Ho – a Hong Kong and Tibet independence advocate – to promote their products in Hong Kong”.

Watch: Denise Ho hosts free concert after Lancome show scrapped

Lancome later issued two statements, saying Ho was not the brand’s spokeswoman, and that the concert would be cancelled, citing “possible safety reasons”.