3 min read.Updated: 02 Aug 2021, 10:47 PM ISTWENXIN FAN, The Wall Street Journal
Charge is the latest in a string of allegations brought by the city’s antigraft watchdog against pro-democracy figures in the city
One of Hong Kong’s most prominent singers has been charged with corruption for a performance he gave at a 2018 rally to support a pro-democracy candidate, the latest in a string of allegations brought by the city’s antigraft watchdog against pro-democracy figures.
Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, 59 years old, an outspoken critic of the city’s government, was arrested Monday morning and later released on bail.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption said on Monday that Mr. Wong sang two songs at a rally for pro-democracy candidate Au Nok-shin, who was running for a seat on the Legislative Council, or LegCo, the city’s top lawmaking body. Mr. Wong engaged in corrupt conduct by providing entertainment to induce another person to vote for Mr. Au, who has also been charged, the agency said.
Hong Kong’s elections ordinance bans the conduct of providing refreshments or entertainment to favor a candidate, but in the past charges have been rare. If convicted, a person could face imprisonment up to seven years on top of a fine as much as $64,000, the ordinance says.
Mr. Wong declined to comment.
The antigraft commission, which was created by British authorities in the 1970s to tackle corruption in the government and police force, has started to bring charges against pro-democracy figures in recent weeks for their activities at rallies years ago. The charges by the commission come amid a broad effort to suppress dissent in the city since antigovernment protests rocked the city in 2019. Last week, the first person tried under the national security law, imposed by Beijing last year, was sentenced to nine years in prison.
The charges against Mr. Wong came a week after a similar case against Benny Tai, a former law professor and prominent leader in the city’s pro-democracy movement. Mr. Tai and two other people bought advertisements to promote a voting scheme for a 2016 LegCo general election, the ICAC said. It alleged that the spending violated Hong Kong’s election rules because only candidates were allowed to incur expenses and none of them were.
Messrs. Tai and Au, who have both been in police custody for months awaiting trials on separate allegations under the national security law, couldn’t be reached for comment. Mr. Tai wrote in a column in November that he expected authorities to use all the city’s laws, interpreting them in the most strict ways, to go after their targets.
Last month, a candidate in a 2019 district election was charged for hiring two street singers to perform outside a subway station and later offering a free calligraphy class at the same spot, arrangements that allegedly violated the same rule Mr. Wong was accused of breaking. Unlike Mr. Wong, those performers have not been charged. The candidate, Au Chung-yin, didn’t respond to a request for comments.
Mr. Wong is the singer for Tat Ming Pair, a band that has played in Hong Kong since the 1980s. The group often intertwines political themes in its music, following the example of Western musicians he admired such as David Bowie and Bjork. Mr. Wong enjoyed a niche but dedicated fan base in Hong Kong and mainland China, but his support for the 2014 Umbrella Movement led Chinese authorities to censor his music.
Many of the band’s songs, as well as solos Mr. Wong released, expressed skepticism over Hong Kong’s future after the 1997 handover to Beijing from the British. Their most recent song, created last year, was dedicated to many Hong Kong residents who left the territory since the 2019 protests.
The two songs Mr. Wong sang on stage in the 2018 rally, wearing a T-shirt with “Down With Big Brothers" printed on it, were about giving people the choice to select their own political parties.
One of them, called “It’s My Party," was written after the chief executive election in 2012 and addressed countering political suppression with dancing and carnivals. It called for people to step out and choose their political representatives.
“So many people have left, but you’re always here," Chow Po-chung, a fan of Mr. Wong’s music and an associate professor of political science at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said on Twitter after Mr. Wong’s arrest on Monday. “Thank you."
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text
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