Hong Kong localism and independence

Taiwanese heavy metal band Chthonic led by pro-independence lawmaker cancels Hong Kong show over work visa issue

  • Canto-pop star Denise Ho, who invited five-member group to music festival, questions time taken by immigration authorities to process application
  • Band is helmed by singer Freddy Lim, a lawmaker on the self-ruled island with strong links to human rights advocacy
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2018, 1:20pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2018, 11:12pm

A Taiwanese heavy metal band led by a pro-independence lawmaker on the self-ruled island was forced to cancel their show in Hong Kong on Sunday over the lack of a working visa.

Hong Kong’s immigration authority has yet to approve the group’s application more than a month since it was filed, according to Canto-pop star Denise Ho Wan-sze, who invited the band Chthonic to her four-day music festival in the city’s science park.

She announced the news on Saturday morning on Facebook and apologised to fans. In her replies to user comments, Ho added that they had anticipated such problems, saying: “This is purely an exchange of music. What are authorities afraid of?”

This is purely an exchange of music. What are authorities afraid of?
Denise Ho, local singer

The five-member band was formed in 1995 in Taipei by lead singer Freddy Lim Tshiong-tso, who founded the pro-independence New Power Party in 2015 after the Sunflower student protest movement. He was elected as a lawmaker in 2016.

The Sunflower campaign was led by Taiwanese students and civic groups in 2014. Activists opposed the passing of a trade pact with China without a thorough review, arguing it would leave the island vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing.

Lim was also head of human rights NGO Amnesty International’s branch in Taiwan between 2010 and 2014.

Chthonic was slated to perform with five local singers and bands on the second day of the On The Pulse of Music Festival in Hong Kong.

Regarding the visa approval for the band, Jelly Cheng, Ho’s assistant, said: “We have been contacting the Immigration Department on a daily basis this week, and all the officials said they had to wait for their superior’s decision.”

“It was on Thursday that we decided to cancel the show because there was little chance of them getting the visa, and there wouldn’t be enough time to arrange their flights,” she added.

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In her Facebook post, Ho said the application for the band was submitted on November 12 and members forwarded copies of their household registration in Taiwan as additional materials requested by authorities on December 3.

Six applications were submitted for the five members of the band and a backup singer from Canada. The Post understands one has definitely been rejected.

“We don’t know much about the details because it’s the festival organiser handling our visa issues,” Lim said. “If the Hong Kong government clearly told the organiser that all but one of us would be granted a visa, the organiser should have told us, because we have got a plan B. Yet as far as we understand, the government didn’t give any clear response, therefore we cannot make any adjustment accordingly.”

However, the other five applicants were aware of the status of their applications, a source told the Post.

Ho said in the Facebook post: “In our experience applying for work visas for non-Hong Kong artists, it usually took the department only a week to grant an approval. This time is obviously different.”

According to the website of the Immigration Department, however, it normally takes four weeks to process visa applications for employment upon receipt of all the required documents.

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Concert goers who have bought tickets for Sunday’s show but want to withdraw because of the band’s cancellation are advised to email their ticketing information to Ho’s music company for a refund.

The On The Pulse of Music Festival is held at the Hong Kong Science Park on December 22, 23, 25 and 26. A one-day ticket costs HK$280 and a two-day pass HK$420, with discounted fees for students priced at HK$200 and HK$300 respectively.

A spokesman for the Immigration Department said it would not comment on an individual case but acted in accordance with the law and prevailing immigration policies in handling each application.

“The department ... decides whether to approve the application after consideration of all related matters and the circumstances of each individual case,” he said.

The Post has reached out to Chthonic for comment. In a Facebook post on Saturday afternoon, the band said it was keen to bring new songs to Hong Kong because it had made many friends in the city through numerous performances since 2000, including during the Clockenflap music festival in 2014.

“We would like to thank all Hongkongers for the efforts they have put in for democracy and freedom in recent years, which not only attracted worldwide attention, but also encouraged many others,” the group said.

“There must be many difficulties and defeats in the journey to champion an ideal. But we will stand by your side and cheer for Hong Kong. Chthonic believes it will perform in the city again some day.”