Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho denied Malaysian visa over pro-LGBT stance
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Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho denied Malaysian visa over pro-LGBT stance

OPENLY gay Cantopop star Denise Ho has been denied entry to perform in Malaysia over her support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Ho, who is also a prominent pro-democracy advocate in Hong Kong also known as HOCC, was scheduled to play in Kuala Lumpur on April 14 as part of her “Dear Self, Dear World” tour. It also includes concerts in several Taiwanese cities.

According to a post on her Facebook page on Thursday, Malaysian officials had called her management to inform them that her performance work visa would not be granted because of her LGBT identity.

SEE ALSO: ‘Let’s make Malaysia cool again’: Events industry fights back against cancellations

They were apparently told Ho’s visa would be denied “because she is an active supporter of the LGBT community.”

According to a letter later received from Malaysian authorities, “a number of issues need to be addressed if the artist is brought in for the performance of this country.” The letter did not make explicit mention of her LGBT status, she said.

“Malaysia welcomes any artist who projects a wholesome value,” the country’s Communications Minister Salleh Said Keruak told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Performances in Malaysia must be done in accordance with “local law and values”, he said.

“The unreasonable censorship imposed by the Malaysian government is a major setback to the advocacy on diversity and inclusion, which should be embraced and protected at all costs,” Ho said in a statement.

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Pro-democracy Bersih protesters carry an LGBT rainbow flag in Bukit Raja, Selangor, Malaysia on Aug 29, 2015. Source: Twitter / @mamifoo

Hardline groups in Malaysia regularly campaign against events they see as un-Islamic, with a number of local arts and alcohol-related events cancelled in recent months. In 2016, conservative activists campaigned against Selena Gomez for being “too sexy”, while last year Megadeth removed some songs from their set list seen to offend Muslim sensibilities.

Gay sex is illegal in the Muslim-majority country, theoretically carrying a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment, caning or a fine, despite being inconsistently enforced. Prominent figure Anwar Ibrahim is currently serving a five-year prison sentence after being convicted for sodomy, in what many observers see as a politically motivated case.

Nevertheless, controversies over “moral” issues like homosexuality are commonplace. Local Malay-language newspaper Sinar Harian made international news earlier this month for publishing a “checklist” of attributes supposedly exhibited by gay and lesbian people.

SEE ALSO: Religious fundamentalism in Malaysia: reality vs rhetoric

Last July, Malaysia’s Health Ministry ended up retracting a competition in which it offered Malaysians aged 13 to 24 around US$1,000 to make videos about how to prevent homosexuality and “gender confusion”.

Authorities also sought to censor Disney film Beauty and the Beast over a supposed “gay moment”. While Disney temporarily announced it would scrap release of the film in Malaysia altogether, it was eventually shown there without censorship.

“I would like to take this unfortunate event to raise more international awareness on homophobia and to shed some light on the increasing repressive situation that the South-east Asian LGBTQ community are facing on a day-to-day basis,” added Ho’s statement.