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Hong Kong arrests Anthony Wong Yiu-ming for singing at campaign rally


HONG KONG – In 2018, Cantopop singer Anthony Wong Yiu-ming performed two songs at a campaign rally and encouraged participants to vote for a pro-democracy candidate for the Hong Kong legislature.

On Monday, the city’s Independent Corruption Commission arrested Mr. Wong, 59, and charged him with breaking campaign laws for his performance at the partial election rally in Au Nok-hin, 34, who went on to win his race.

Both have been charged with violating a provision of the law that prohibits the solicitation of votes by using food, drink or entertainment. The charges carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

“Providing refreshments and entertainment to others during an election is corrupt behavior and a serious offense,” the anti-corruption agency said in a statement announcing the charges.

Mr. Wong’s arrest follows a massive campaign against political opposition in Hong Kong in which people were targeted for a wide range of expressions, including protest slogans, children’s books and newspaper articles. Most of China’s pro-democracy politicians have been arrested under a year-old national security law or have moved abroad. The mass anti-government protests that filled the streets in 2019 have been silenced.

Mr Au is already serving a 10-month prison sentence for his involvement in a 2019 protest and is among dozens of politicians charged under the Security Act in an informal electoral primary organized by pro parties. -democracy last year, which the authorities said was part of a plan to overthrow the government.

A representative for Mr. Wong did not immediately return a request for comment.

The charges are the latest in a series of legal actions against the opposition camp by authorities in Hong Kong. Police last month arrested five members of a speech therapists union for publishing children’s books which officials say have instilled hatred of the government.

Last week, a protester who crashed into police with his motorcycle last year while holding a banner bearing a protest slogan was sentenced to nine years in prison for terrorism and incitement to secession, the first conviction in under the security law.

Pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was forced to shut down in June after authorities froze its bank accounts. Its founder, Jimmy Lai, editors and senior executives have been indicted under the Security Act for allegedly calling for sanctions against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.

The anti-corruption organization also announced charges against three people last week, including Benny Tai, a prominent political strategist at the pro-democracy camp, accusing them of placing $ 32,000 in newspaper ads for them. 2016 legislative elections. Under Hong Kong law, it is illegal for anyone other than a candidate or a candidate’s authorized agent to spend on a campaign.

Mr. Wong, who is sometimes referred to as Cantonese David Bowie, is a singer for electronic group Tat Ming Pair, which uses makeup, costumes and theatrical settings.

Tat Ming Pair addresses social and political issues in his songs. His biggest hits were two albums that spoke of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 as well as anxiety in Hong Kong, a former British colony, as it approached its return to Chinese rule in 1997. Two of the band’s songs, “Forgot He or She” and “Love in the Time of Pandemic,” deal with homosexuality and prejudices faced by members of the gay community.

Mr. Wong is one of the few celebrities to speak out against the Hong Kong government and its supporters in Beijing, a position he says has cost him huge amounts of income and partnerships with international brands.

He told the New York Times in a 2019 interview that being gay in 2012 had made him feel more comfortable breaking the industry’s silence on politics, and he then spoke out in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy umbrella movement in 2014.

“I am first a civilian,” said Mr. Wong, “then a musician and also a social activist.”

He said at the time that he was not worried about being blacklisted in China because of his policies.

“I have been singing for 30 years and I can afford to pay that price,” he said. “A lot of people would then be too afraid to speak or express themselves. This is the scariest part.

Li Yuan contributed reports.

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