American jazz musician Kenny G got himself in a bit of trouble with Beijing on Wednesday, after he was seen on the front lines of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests -- which the government in Bejing interpreted as an expression of support for the movement. After receiving a warning from China’s foreign ministry about meddling in domestic politics, Kenny G -- who has an enormous fan base in China -- has since clarified his stance on the protests.
Writing on Facebook, the popular saxophonist, whose real name is Kenneth Gorelick, addressed the comments and did a little damage control by saying his presence at the Occupy protests should not be taken as political. “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,” he posted.
“I was not trying to defy the government orders with my last post,” he writes. “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.”
Alienating fans from Hong Kong or China could threaten Kenny G's massive popularity there, prompted by the immense success of his 1989 single "Going Home," which is played all over the country to signal the closure of shopping malls and other establishments. In his post on Facebook, the saxophone player was sure to mention his love of performing for both crowds. “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,” he said.
But many commenters on the post expressed disappointment and anger for what they interpreted to be kowtowing to the Chinese government.
Kenny G’s original post on Twitter said, “In Hong Kong at the sight [sic] of the demonstration. I wish everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation,” along with a photo of him in front of a pro-democracy sign, prompting a response from Beijing.
“Kenny G’s musical works are widely popular in China,” Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said in a press briefing in Beijing. “We hope that foreign governments and individuals speak and act cautiously and not support Occupy Central and other illegal activities.”