Malaysian Rapper Namewee Pulls in Horns for HK Concert

Controversial Malaysian rapper Wee Meng Chee has become the latest to join a growing number of artists and brands facing stern Chinese limitations on their performance in return for a bite of China’s US$150 billion entertainment and media industry.

Wee, whose stage name is Namewee – a pun on his name in Putonghua – posted a statement on Facebook on Oct. 19 that he had been forced by his Hong Kong concert promoter to declare that he wouldn’t “make any comments or say anything about the Malaysian government or Chinese government” during his Oct. 20 “Namewee Asia Killer” concert.

Wee is hardly a stranger to controversy. Among other things, he made an expletive-riddled song called “Learn Cantonese” in which he took on mainland efforts to push Putonghua in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, which became wildly popular with Hong Kong youth, many of whom are in outright revolt against mainland ambitions to integrate the territory further into China. He was also recently sentenced to three months of community service for insulting employees from Malaysia’s largest electric utility company in 2009. In 2011, he starred in a Malaysia comedy film “Nasi Lemak 2.0” as a chef who finds Islamic dietary practices revolting.

NameWee told Apple Daily he had been ordered by the Hong Kong branch of his Singaporean management company to sign the statement to allay fears from sponsors. The concert manager, Lau Tao-Wang of EQ Music & Media, told local media his company had asked Wee to sign the statement to avoid anything that is “politically sensitive.” He stressed that the statement was his idea, adding that the Malaysian or Chinese government had nothing to do with it.

“We just want him to behave,” Lau told local media. “Also, the company wants Wee to enter the China market in the future.”

Nor is Wee alone. Despite signs that the Chinese entertainment industry has opened up in recent years to more controversial topics, western artists and brands are beginning to limit their antics in exchange for a chance at growing their reach in China’s market.

Bon Jovi, initially scheduled to tour China during last month, suddenly found the tour had been canceled. According to a Financial Times report, the tour is believed to have been canceled for his use of Dalai Lama’s image as a backdrop for a 2010 concert although he had made a recording of a popular love song in Mandarin for his Chinese fans.

Another group to recently face the wrath of China’s tour cancellation is Maroon 5, reported for having a band member tweet a happy birthday message to the Dalai Lama on twitter.

Despite the difficulties, western brands are eager to enter the lucrative Chinese market. Just last week Playboy magazine, the longtime nudie pioneer, announced it would no longer publish nude photos. Playboy earns more 40% of its revenue in China despite never having published the magazine from the mainland. In 2014 alone, Playboy generated half a billion dollars in revenue through licensing deals in retail and merchandise.

Artists have also censored themselves to avoid offending Hong Kong and mainland authorities. Popular saxophonist Kenny G last year hurriedly deleted a post on social media after the post, containing a picture of him with a protester during Hong Kong’s Occupy movement, quoting him saying he wished “ everyone a peaceful and positive conclusion to this situation.”

The viral quickly caught Beijing’s attention, earning a stern response from a Foreing Ministry spokesperson. That prompted Kenny G’s abrupt U-turn, stating he didn’t support the protests in Hong Kong and declaring his love for China.