Chinese pop star Lay Zhang Yixing calls off Hong Kong concert over security fears

Ann Cao

Chinese singer Lay Zhang Yixing has cancelled a concert in Hong Kong on Saturday over security concerns amid ongoing anti-government protests in the city.

“Nobody would like to see what is happening in Hong Kong now,” Zhang’s studio said in an online statement on Monday night. “Therefore, we have to announce after deliberation that we will cancel the Hong Kong concert on August 17.”

The announcement came after a mass sit-in by protesters at Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, stopped passengers from checking in or clearing security, prompting the airport to cancel all outgoing flights. The disruptions continued at the airport on Tuesday as check-in services were again suspended.

Zhang’s concert was originally due to be held near the airport at AsiaWorld-Expo.

Originally from Hunan province in central China, Zhang rose to fame after debuting as a member of K-pop boy group Exo in 2012. With estimated earnings of 120 million yuan (US$17 million), Zhang was 20th on the Forbes China Celebrity 100 list in 2017. His 2018 solo album Namanana debuted at 21 on the Billboard 200, the highest ranking by a Mando-pop singer.

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The studio said that before deciding to cancel, Zhang, his team and concert organisers tried “all possible ways” – including increasing on-site security, putting on free shuttle buses and buying insurance for attendees – to ensure the safety of the fans and that the concert can be held on schedule. But this was still not enough to overcome traffic and security concerns, the studio said, adding that all tickets would be refunded.

Fans expressed support for the decision on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, but the cancellation received a cool response on Hong Kong’s social media community.

“His [former Exo] bandmates just finished two days of concerts, but nothing [bad] happened,” one commenter wrote under the statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday.

“Maybe he’s concerned about his own safety,” another commenter said.

Zhang is not the first singer to cancel in Hong Kong amid the unrest. On Monday, managers of the Macpherson Stadium in Mong Kok announced that two concerts scheduled for later this month had to be postponed – Taiwanese singer Ding Dang had been due to appear on August 23 and Taiwanese duo Bai An and Xiao Bing Chih on August 24.

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Meanwhile Zhang has continued his collaboration with Calvin Klein, after it came under scrutiny for classifying Hong Kong and Taiwan as regions on the company’s website.

Some internet users said the city and the island should be designated as part of China and accused Zhang of not taking a patriotic stand on the issue.

Calvin Klein issued an apology on Tuesday, saying it was sorry about the misunderstanding caused by the category.

International brands, including Versace, Coach and Givenchy, have also fallen foul of Chinese consumers in the last few days over T-shirt designs that list Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan separately from China, prompting some Chinese brand ambassadors to cut ties.

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