MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Kenny G Backs Down on Hong Kong Support After Chinese Reprimand

Twitter, Kenny GTwitter, Kenny GAs we know, countless thousands of pro-democracy protesters, known as "Occupy Central," have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, pushing back against China's unrepresentative control over the city's political leadership. In the middle of this fight wandered (ever so briefly, he swears) an unlikely individual: Kenneth Gorelick, a.k.a. Kenny G.

Yes, the smooth jazz saxophonist with funky hair walked right into the heart of the protests on Wednesday and posted a picture of himself on Twitter with the caption, "In Hong Kong at the sight [sic] of the demonstration. I wish everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation." That sounds just as benign as his music.

Within hours the Chinese government issued a reprimand:

Kenny G's musical works are widely popular in China, but China's position on the illegal Occupy Central activities in Hong Kong is very clear. We hope that foreign governments and individuals speak and act cautiously and not support Occupy Central and other illegal activities in any form.

Indeed, Kenny G is wildly popular throughout China and Hong Kong.

So, the offending Tweet disappeared, and Mr. G serenaded his authoritarian fans with a slew of new tweets, which he also put together in a Facebook status:

I was not trying to defy government orders with my last post. I was in Hong Kong as a stop on my way to perform at Mission Hills and happened to walk by the protest area as I was walking around Hong Kong as a tourist. Some fans took my picture and it's unfair that I am being used by anyone to say that I am showing support for the demonstrators. I am not supporting the demonstrators as I don't really know anything about the situation and my impromptu visit to the site was just part of an innocent walk around Hong Kong. I love Hong Kong and always come here to perform when I'm asked to. I love China and love coming here to perform for over 25 years. I only wanted to share my wish for Peace for Hong Kong and for all of China as I feel close to and care about China very much Please don't mistake my peace sign for any other sign than a sign for Peace.

On Thursday The Atlantic published an interview with Kenny. He denies that he gave encouraging words about democracy to protesters, insisting that he was just passing through and only hung around for a few minutes, and that it was other people taking the pictures, not him.

Is Kenny G some kind of Maoist commie? Probably not. Does he like not being banned from China and thereby cut off from his ridiculously huge fanbase and their money? Most likely.

Still, Kenny G waded into an international political affair, and he disappointingly came out of it squarely neutral. Not really an admirable stance when one side is composed of hopeful, educated freedom fighters who demonstrate peacefully, speak politely, and clean up the streets they occupy, whereas the other side is a historically brutal, oppressive goverment currently using police to gas and beat their counterparts. Yes, the same government that worries democracy will be too empowering for the poor.

Not that others have stepped up to the plate to robustly criticize China. American universities regularly cave to the nation's censorship demands, and the Obama administration offered the ultimate milquetoast finger-wag when it proclaimed that both sides of the current unrest ought to show "restraint." 

The latest news on the situation is that proteste leaders "plan to hold a spot referendum Sunday on whether to stay in the streets or accept government offers for more talks and clear their protest camps. The three main groups behind the demonstrations said Thursday they would register public opinion at the main downtown protest site, where thousands remain camped out," reports NBC.

Photo Credit: cc

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • MegaloMonocle||

    Like we needed confirmation that Kenny G has no balls.

  • ||

    I'm a fan, and the news made me sad.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I'm a fan

    I find that admission to be more noxious than anything Kenny G wrote.

  • ||

    Aw c'mon, he's talented!

  • GILMORE||

    FIRE!! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!

  • Ted S.||

    I posted a link to this in the AM Links. Where the hell is my hat-tip? ;-)

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    What an incredible chicken shit

  • ||

    I came here to say exactly that. What a pussy.

  • Adam330||

    I for one will never buy a Kenny G album again.

  • e-bowler||

    Again? That's quite an admission there.

  • Raston Bot||

    what kind of sick universe do i inhabit where that guy gets mad ass??

  • e-bowler||

    "Kenny G kisses just like my dad."

  • ||

    God damn I had totally forgotten about that episode. How could I forget that line?

  • sarcasmic||

    Pussy.

  • e-bowler||

    While I hate the PRC govt and will cheer every setback they get from whatever corner, it's kind of murky in a legal sense who is right in the current crisis in HK. The govt of HK has never been democratically elected, so portraying this as democracy vs authoritarianism is missing the point.

  • Zeb||

    While it seems like these protestors are much less idiotic than the US occupy movements and I think that political rights are important, I worry that the outcome will just be to make everything worse in Hong Kong. They do enjoy very good economic freedom and pretty good personal freedom in Hong Kong. I would hate to see this push the Chinese to curtail those more. Economic freedom if far more important to people's actual lives than political freedom.

  • ||

    Eh, while it's true that HK has never been purely democratic and that there are a lot of complications to the issues here, I think it's completely fair to say that the heart of the issue is who gets to even be nominated to stand for election: Beijing's stance is that only Beijing-loyal candidates should be allowed to stand for election, which kind of makes a joke out of the idea of democracy and universal suffrage. The fact that HK's never been purely democratic doesn't negate the fact that the protesters are trying to push it in a more democratic, independent direction, and Beijing is trying to push it in a less democratic, independent direction.

  • waffles||

    I'm not surprised, just disappointed. It would be awesome if Kenny G were punk about this, but sadly no. Perhaps I do not live in the best of all possible universes.

  • ||

    The best of all possible universes would be the one where Kenny G was beat stupid with a tenor sax wielded by Sonny Rollins, encased in concrete along with every other "smooth jazz" dispshit, and dropped into the deepest part of the Marianas Trench.

  • Almanian!||

    Whatever. Not a Kenny G fan, certainly not a China fan. OTOH, China is one of the biggest growth markets for my company....so....beddin' down with the Commies to a certain degree. Green dollars evidently smell better than clean consciences, so I can't blame Mr. G entirely. Mostly, if he'd have just STFU right out the gate....never becomes an issue.

    Whatever.

  • ||

    Kenny learned the hard way that people who like to exercise power over others are really good at sussing out whether they have some power to wield over anyone who annoys them. The Chinese politicians saw his little tweet and knew they could fuck with him and make him tuck his tail between his legs...so they did.

  • Almanian!||

    Again, I find that often "STFU" is in one's self interest

  • BakedPenguin||

    The thing is, his first statement was pretty innocuous, unless you're a totalitarian asshole.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, it seems likely that he really just was stopping to talk to some fans and not really taking any position on the protests.

  • Warren's Strapon||

    Thing is, his original statement was pretty neutral. In fact it sounds like something that could have come out of the Central Committee. I guess the picture was the problem, not the statement.

  • heartburn||

    Woah. What a pussy.

    Oh yeah. And fuck the Chinese government.

  • Zeb||

    Kenny wants to play music and make money. I can't really blame him for backing off from looking like he is taking a political stand.

    My favorite thing about this story is learning that Kenny G music is ubiquitous in Chinese elevators and trains.

  • heartburn||

    Well, he's no Ted Nugent.

  • Warren's Strapon||

    Don't shit where you eat.

  • Careless||

    I will bet every last cent that I own that he didn't write the first sentence of that.

  • Careless||

    An American wouldn't write "defy government orders" even if that's what he meant to write. That's commie propagandist thinking

  • Rhywun||

    Back when the Commies were a little more tone-deaf, G's "apology" would probably have just been lifted from the Little Red Book - "forward, proletariats!" and such.

  • Careless||

    And yes, I do realize that the most important consequence of my post will be to help a commie propagandist be slightly more competent at faking humanity.

  • heartburn||

    "I will bet every last cent that the government lets me keep..."

    Fixed that for you.

  • Hugh Akston||

    In an alternate universe somewhere, Kenny G refuses to back down and continues to voice his support on various social media channels for peaceful protests and political change in Hong Kong. The attention of a popular Western musician emboldens the opposition and broadens support for the Occupy movement in HK. The Chinese respond by adding Kenny G's music to the list of verboten Western culture, blocking downloads and criminalizing possession. The opposition hits back by handing out free physical copies of his music at their rallies, and setting up black mirror sites for downloading Kenny G music beyond the reach of the Great Firewall.

    Eventually, Kenny G becomes the mellow adult contemporary anthem of the Hong Kong self-determination movement. The music spreads like a virus through the masses of Hong Kong, whose growing protests threaten to grind not only the Chinese, but indeed the global economy to a halt. Eventually, the Chinese state has to accede to the movement's demands, and grant Hong Kong independence.

    Decades from now, as an independent Hong Kong becomes a gleaming beacon of freedom and prosperity in Southeast Asia, the movement that began it all comes to be known as the Kenny G Revolution, after the man who refused to back down against Chinese bullying, and whose music rallied countless millions to fight for the cause of political self-determination.

  • waffles||

    Truly that would be the best of all possible universes.

  • ||

    But I thought Wyld Stallyns was the music that would bring peace to the world!

  • ||

    So Kenny G would be China's Velvet Underground?

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, that might happen. Or the Chinese might decide to send the army in and shoot them all and take more control over personal and economic liberties that are pretty good in Hong Kong at the moment.

  • e-bowler||

    You think the British would stand by and let that happen?

  • Rhywun||

    Good one.

  • ||

    His instrument is made of brass, not his balls. He is a musician, so what? I can't blame the guy.

  • wareagle||

    sure, that's the problem today - a musician's squishiness on an international political topic.

  • flye||

    Clickhole:

    It's Time To Have A National Conversation That Doesn't Include Input From Celebrities, Because Yikes

  • MegaloMonocle||

    Better reply:

    "I was walking around HK and took my usual "political" position of hoping that everything can be resolved peacefully. I am astonished that apparently the government authorities regard this position as hostile to their side of the current dispute. I didn't have a dog in this fight until the government authorities tried to beat me into submission. Now, I'm thinking the protestors have a point. Peace Out."

  • jmomls||

    Wow, I never knew what Squidward looked like without his makeup on. Yikes.

    *From what I hear, most residents want these protesters to get out of their way so they can get to work.*

    So, just like Occupy Wall Street, then.

  • Aresen||

    I would like to know if Kenny G has ever used the phrase "people before profits".

  • B.P.||

    I saw Kenny G open up for Michael Bolton at the Kentucky State Fair years ago. Fourth row. Free tickets, of course. I was drunker than hell, and my brother got into a fight. It was hilarious.

  • Zeb||

    I was drunker than hell, and my brother got into a fight.

    Any story from the Kentucky state fair that didn't have at least those two elements to it would be a big disappointment.

  • Rorschach Carlyle||

    "Freedom Fighters", indeed. They aren't fighting for freedom, they're fighting for democracy. Which, if they get it, they'll most likely use to vote away what freedom they have, just like every other Western democracy has.

  • ||

    That's the spirit.

  • ||

    Is Kenny G the one who is now running a billion dollar hedge fund or something?

  • Anomalous||

    He's a sax offender.

  • Robert||

    Oh, that Kenny G. I thought this was about the much more prominent one, http://wfmu.org/~kennyg

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    I dislike the Chinese gov't as much as the libertarian, but I actually find it rather refreshing that a celebrity admits he doesn't know enough about a situation to open his mouth about it. This has gotta be a first.

  • BigT||

    If a Chinese musician came out for the Occupotty movement, how would we respond? Probably tell him to STFU. Our guv would likely say nothing.

  • cheapghd||

    We store the Cheap GHD products in 2014 set off a craze in the UK, now will give you a seventy-five percent discount.

    www.ghdukcheap.com

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online