China loves Kenny G. But the Chinese government's love affair with the gratingly ubiquitous smooth jazz saxophonist could be coming to an end.
Kenny G is in Hong Kong, and according to his tweets, he's been hanging out with pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters, much to the dismay of the government.
The musician posted a photo of himself smiling and flashing a peace sign in front of a protest sign Wednesday.
in Hong Kong at the sight of the demonstration. I wish everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation pic.twitter.com/mEp5jIXLjj
— Kenny G (@officialkennyg) October 22, 2014
In China, Kenny G's music is widely popular; specifically, his 1989 instrumental hit, "Go Home," has become a surprisingly effective form of state control. The track is played in a near-constant loop as malls close, in Tianamen Square, or in libraries just before the lights go out -- an unmistakable sign to the public that the time has come to get out.
In an interview with the New York Times, and long before the student-led protesters took to the streets, Kenny G seemed delighted by the state-endorsed love for his music:
“Do I wish I could get paid for everything? Of course,” he said in a telephone interview. “But I surrender to the fact that that’s the way things go there.” Touring China in the 1990s, he heard “Going Home” playing in Tiananmen Square, in Shanghai, on a golf course and “in a restroom in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “It made me feel great to know there was no language barrier to connecting with music.”
Chinese officials this week have been blaming unspecified "external" forces for aiding the protesters.
And asked about Kenny G's appearance on Wednesday morning, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying issued a similar warning, according to the Associated Press.
"I think Kenny G's music is popular in China, though regarding the illegal protest in Hong Kong, the Chinese government has a clear position. We think that is an illegal campaign," Hua said.
"We support the government of Hong Kong to handle it in accordance with the law to maintain stability in Hong Kong. Thus we hope all foreign countries and individuals could be discreet in words and deeds and not support the illegal protest in any forms," she said.
Incidentally, that exchange with journalists, reported by Reuters, the AP and ABC News, is conspicuously absent from the official transcript of the news conference put out by the government, which is not uncommon when they are faced with
matters they view as sensitive.
UPDATE! As the controversy swirled, Kenny G took to Facebook to say that he'd never intended to strike a discordant note with Chinese officials.
"I was not trying to defy government orders with my last post," he wrote. Rather, G said, he was in the neighborhood, and ... well, here's his full statement:
William Wan contributed to this report.
[This post has been updated.]