Canto-pop singer and pro-democracy activist Denise Ho banned from performing at top Hong Kong theatre

  • A series of shows at the Hong Kong Arts Centre were cancelled, allegedly due to public safety concerns
  • Pro-Beijing newspaper ‘Ta Kung Pao’ recently accused the activist of taking part in anti-China activities since 2019

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Pro-democracy activist Denise Ho speaks during a news conference on human rights in Hong Kong in Washington DC in 2019. She recently had her concert cancelled over alleged public safety concerns. Photo: AP

Denise Ho Wan-sze, a Canto-pop singer and political activist, has been banned from performing at one of Hong Kong’s top theatres next week, just days after a pro-Beijing newspaper accused her of taking part in anti-China activities.

Responding to the termination of her contract on Wednesday, Ho, an anti-government activist who was vocal in her support of protesters during the 2019 social unrest, said she would arrange a refund for ticket buyers and planned to live-stream her show next Sunday.

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“[We] can’t help but ask, as an independent organisation supporting contemporary art, and has operated in the city for 44 years, how can Arts Centre randomly terminate any hiring contracts without citing concrete evidence?” Ho’s company, Goomusic, said in a statement. “We are very disappointed.”

In its own statement, Hong Kong Arts Centre said it had decided to cancel Ho’s reservation for the period between September 6 and 12 citing clause 22(c) of the centre’s terms and conditions. It also said it would return the booking fee of HK$127,800 to Ho.

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The clause states that in circumstances where “public order or public safety would be endangered during the course of performance … the management may, without notice, cancel the confirmed booking and terminate the hiring of the hired venue”.

No explanation of the public safety issues allegedly at play was given, nor did the centre specify what provisions Ho had failed to meet.

Ho joins protesters who have occupied Connaught Road Central during the pro-democracy protests in 2019. Photo: SCMP/Victor Ting

Ho’s show was to have run from September 8 to 12 at the Arts Centre’s Shouson Theatre in Wan Chai. Tickets for the seven performances – which cost HK$680 each – were sold out by mid-August. She paid a rental fee of HK$127,800 for the facility.

“Despite inexplicable changes and red lines, our show will not be limited by venues, and our live-stream will carry on next Sunday,” her company said in its statement.

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Ho, an active participant in Hong Kong’s protest movement, was recently attacked by pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao, which accused her of taking part in what it termed anti-China and Hong Kong activities since 2019.

Wen Wei Po, another pro-Beijing paper, separately published a news story on August 24 citing sources who said Ho was on police radar for publicly supporting 47 activists arrested under the national security law for their participation in an unofficial primary election.

Ho is a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a group that has supported protesters facing criminal prosecution or financial hardship as a result of the 2019 unrest.

The fund announced last month that it would close in October, but security chief Chris Tang Ping-keung issued a strong warning last week nonetheless, questioning whether it was trying to “make underhanded profit” from a final donation drive before it disbanded.

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