‘Glory to Hong Kong’ busker arrested while performing protest songs

Street performer Oliver Ma was arrested in Central on Aug. 8, 2020.
Street performer Oliver Ma was arrested in Central on Aug. 8, 2020.

A Hong Kong busker known for singing protest songs was arrested over the weekend while performing in Central.

Oliver Ma, who is half-Filipino and half-Chinese, was busking at the junction of Queen’s Road Central and Pedder Street Saturday when police officers asked him to leave to avoid attracting a crowd. When he refused, they took Ma’s busking equipment and handcuffed him. He was taken to a police station, local media reported.

A live video filmed before the arrest shows the 21-year-old singing “Glory to Hong Kong” to a small crowd as police officers stood watch nearby.

As he starts singing “Do You Hear the People Sing,” police come up to him and ask him to leave. He ignores them and continues singing, and at one point an officer turns down the volume of his amp. Another pats him down and searches his pockets and guitar case. A passerby is heard asking police what offence he had breached.

The officers leave after that, but later returned to carry out the arrest.

According to a police statement, Ma was arrested on suspected charges of obstructing police officers and possessing an offensive weapon. Officers were asking him to leave to avoid drawing a crowd, the statement explained.

Lawmaker Ted Hui, also a district councillor who serves the Central area, was alerted to Ma’s arrest on Saturday afternoon. He said a lawyer was following the case.

(更新消息:已聯絡律師團隊跟進,據知Oliver ma現被送往瑪麗醫院)菲裔歌手街頭唱歌突被捕 大媽嘈到拆天卻警拒理今日收到多位市民報料,目擊唱歌的菲裔歌手Oliver…

Posted by 許智峯 Ted Hui Chi Fung on Saturday, August 8, 2020

“The police’s enforcement is biased. We’ve received complaints of da ma being a nuisance,” Hui wrote, referring to middle-aged mainland Chinese women who often sing loudly on the streets.

“We’ve written to the police several times to look into [the complaints] and asked to inspect the situation with them, but they have ignored their due responsibility and refused to enforce the law,” he added.

Ma has been released on bail.

Read more: Meet Hong Kong’s street musicians

This is the second time that Ma was arrested in recent weeks—on July 27, he was busking in Central when he got into an altercation with an elderly woman working at a nearby newspaper stand.

“[She] caused a commotion by scolding at me, grabbing away my microphone stand and giving my guitar case a kick, eventually leading me to drop my guitar onto the ground,” Ma wrote in a Facebook post the next day.

He said that police officers who arrived at the scene “aggressively grab[bed]” his left arm and pulled him aside.

Police said the incident involved a “dispute over noise issues” and that Ma was arrested on a suspected charge of criminal intimidation for allegedly threatening the elderly woman.

“No voice memos, no video recordings, but it was already enough ‘evidence’ for the cops to arrest me,” he wrote, adding that he believes he is “a victim of false accusation.”

Ma became the subject of media attention during the height of the anti-government demonstrations last year, when he was filmed performing “Glory to Hong Kong” to a crowd in Central one October evening as police officers surrounded him.

One YouTube video of the incident has been viewed more than 890,000 times.

He was interviewed by several local media outlets after that, including Apple Daily and HK01, during which he talked about his support for the pro-democracy movement as a born-and-bred Hongkonger.

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