HONG KONG • Hong Kong’s controversial extradition Bill has polarised society, but it is not just ordinary folk who are taking to the streets – the city’s film and TV stars and singers have spoken up both for and against those protesting against the legislation.
But speaking out has come at a price. Some celebrities have seen their lucrative careers on the mainland go up in smoke, while others have faced a barrage of criticism in Hong Kong.
Popular Cantopop singer Denise Ho is all too familiar with this.
She has been on the front line of the city’s pro-democracy movement since the sit-in street protests of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, and the move has been costly for her.
She has been banned from performing on the mainland, where her music has also been removed from streaming services. Till then, she had performed on mainland China more than 100 times.
The ban has cost her about US$120,000 (S$163,100) in annual income, The New York Times, citing Ms Ho’s manager, reported on Friday.
But the singer has remained defiant, continuing to stand with protesters on the front line opposing the legislation, which would have allowed for fugitives to be sent to the mainland to stand trial.
On Friday, she spoke up for Hong Kong’s young protesters at a sit-in rally, saying that she believed this was a fight to “safeguard Hong Kong’s values”.
“I think there are some priorities in life. You cannot think about only your own personal well-being when your city and your home are gradually losing their beautiful values. I think, at that point, you just have to make a choice,” she said, referring to her stance.
Other celebrities like award-winning actress Deanie Ip have also openly backed the anti-extradition protesters.
Opponents of the Bill have framed the fight as a battle for Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy, which they say would be eroded by the proposed law.
On the other side of the fence, celebrities have also spoken up for the police, who have come under attack for being heavy-handed in putting down protests.
Veteran actor Tony Leung Ka-Fai and singers Alan Tam and Kenny Chung (known by his stage name Kenny Bee) stood up for the police at a rally on June 30, much to the chagrin of their fans.
“It’s a bit dangerous for us to come out today as public figures… But we are not speaking about politics – we are talking about justice,” Mr Chung said at the rally.
Since then, they have come under intense criticism online, with fans posting pictures of their smashed records and threatening boycotts.
Asked by Apple Daily for her thoughts on celebrities taking sides, Ms Ip said: “We can’t call other people’s choices wrong. Everyone has his own judgment. We shouldn’t pit ourselves against one another. I’ve come out today because everyone has his freedom to do what he thinks is right… I won’t criticise them,” she said.
But by speaking out publicly, Hong Kongers say these public figures have served to further inflame sentiment about the Bill in the city.
Protests against legislation have been going on for almost a month.
Today, protesters are expected to take to the streets again, this time marching in Kowloon area with the aim of spreading news about the Bill to tourists from the mainland, where events about Hong Kong have been heavily censored.
• Additional reporting by Elizabeth Law