China celebrity crackdown: Companies and organisations distance themselves from China’s ‘prince of piano’ after accusations he solicited a prostitute

23-Oct-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Li Yundi, a renowned pianist in China nicknamed the “prince of piano”, has been quickly boycotted and banned from posting online after police announced on Thursday he had been detained on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute.

The police statement did not specify how long he would be detained, but, according to Chinese law, soliciting prostitution is illegal and typically leads to administrative detention of between 10 and 15 days. It could be reduced to five days or fewer if the circumstances of the offence are minor.

Li’s boycott, and Weibo ban, was similar to the fate that has befallen other celebrities who have run afoul of Chinese laws, but he has not been completely censored, as has happened in other cases, such as that of Zheng Shuang, who was scrubbed from the Chinese internet after being fined for tax evasion.

China has intensified its crackdown on celebrities behaving badly in the past six months and encouraged ethical conduct and personal integrity.

The sweeping crackdown has involved criminal cases and also people who ran afoul of sensitive political topics, such as Zhang Zhehan, who has been censored after visiting Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine, which is a political flashpoint between Tokyo and its Asian neighbours.

The 39-year-old musician has been banned from posting on Weibo, where he has over 20 million followers, while a number of organisations have cut ties with him.

The China Musicians Association, the country’s largest musical organisation that the Chinese Communist Party created in 1949, terminated Li’s membership soon after police announced that he allegedly visited a 29-year-old prostitute in Beijing.

The decision was made on the grounds of the “wide public attention and extremely bad social influence” he caused, it said in a statement published on its website early on Friday.

The Sichuan Conservatory of Music, which hired him as deputy head of its Piano Art Institute, has deleted his name from its website and official Weibo account, including broader content that included him. It also removed a sign for the Yundi Piano Studio established under his name, according to local television Sichuan TV.

Li’s name also disappeared from the official site and Weibo account of Mango TV, a popular media company that is one of his primary business partners.

Mango TV also removed the first seven episodes of Call Me By Fire, a hit televised talent show which featured Li as one of the guests, from its official site.

Li shot to fame by winning the Frederic Chopin piano competition at the age of 18 and received top awards at various other competitions thereafter.

Li’s detention is still one of the hottest search topics on social media as of Friday evening.

Li became a Hong Kong resident in 2007 under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, which is a plan to help “highly skilled or talented persons to settle in Hong Kong” to boost the city’s economic competitiveness. Lang Lang, another famous Chinese pianist, was granted resident status in Hong Kong under the same scheme in 2006.

He has been active in various promotional events and entertainment TV shows across the mainland in recent years.

He signed a three-year contract last year to be the face of Guangzhou’s tourism drive. He played the piano in a tourism promotion video released by the local government just last week.

In September 2014, Chinese director Wang Quanan was detained by police in Beijing for patronising prostitutes. That same year, actor Huang Haibo found himself in a similar situation. Both have kept a low profile on the mainland since.


Category: China

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