Sax and the City: Kenny G hits sour note in China with Hong Kong visit

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 22, 2014 4:55 AM

BEIJING (Reuters) - Best-selling U.S. jazz musician Kenny G struck a bum note in China when he appeared among Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, prompting the country's foreign ministry to warn foreigners to keep their noses out.

The saxophonist, whose real name is Kenny Gorelick, confirmed he had visited a protest site after pictures of him appeared on Twitter on Wednesday.

"In Hong Kong at the sight (sic) of the demonstration. I wish everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation," he wrote on his official account.

Hong Kong students and Occupy Central protesters have taken to the streets of the former British colony for nearly a month, pushing for wider democracy. The city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China's foreign ministry, which has expressed repeated dissatisfaction about what it sees as foreign interference in an internal issue, said it did not know any details about Gorelick's visit.

"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," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

"We hope that foreign governments and individuals speak and act cautiously and not support the Occupy Central and other illegal activities in any form," she added.

Gorelick later posted a message on his Facebook page saying he did not know anything about the situation, calling his visit an "impromptu" one, "just part of an innocent walk around Hong Kong".

"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," he wrote.

"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."

Gorelick, who played at President Bill Clinton's inaugural ball, is wildly popular in China, and he played four concerts there last month, including in the capital Beijing.

Despite hosting a raft of high-profile foreign acts in recent years, including the Rolling Stones and the late James Brown, China takes pains to ensure concerts and their performers are politically correct.

In 2008, a pro-Tibet outburst by Icelandic singer Bjork at a Shanghai concert infuriated Beijing, which immediately launched a crackdown to tighten controls on foreign singers performing in China.

China banned Taiwan pop star Chang Hui-mei for a year after she sang the self-ruled island's anthem at anti-China President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration in 2000. China considers Taiwan sovereign territory.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Farah Master and James Pomfret in HONG KONG; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)