China has arrested pianist Li Yundi, one of the country's most prominent musicians on prostitution charges, which the Chinese state media has described will set an example for anyone trying to challenge the government's sense of discipline. Li was arrested along with a 29-year-old female surnamed Chen on charges of soliciting prostitution, according to The People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece.
Li's arrest once again shows how President Xi Jinping has been escalating crackdown on the country's entertainment industry that has only worsened over the past couple of months. It is not known when Li was arrested but the news came to light only on Thursday night after Beijing's police made an official announcement.
Xi's Wrath on Entertainment Industry
The news broke on Thursday night after police in Beijing's Chaoyang district posted an announcement to their official Weibo account, saying that after receiving anonymous tips about illegal sex work in the area, they "launched an investigation." During the crackdown a man along with a sex worker was arrested. The man was later identified as 39-year-old Li, while the sex worker goes by the name Chen, 29.
"Both of them have admitted to their alleged behavior and they are currently under detention at the local police station," the notice stated.
State broadcaster CCTV said in a bulletin said that "some celebrities have frequently challenged the social conscience, morality and even dignity of the law." "Abiding by discipline and laws is the bottom line," the channel added. However, it didn't elaborate much on what disciplinary ground was Li arrested and what the notice was referring to. "Anyone who dares to cross this bottom line and challenges laws and social morality is doomed."
Interestingly, Beijing police didn't say anything directly that the man arrested was Li. However, Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau soon posted a photo of a piano on social media site Weibo and wrote: "This world has more colors than black and white, but one has to differentiate black and white. This is absolutely not to be confused."
This led many to believe that the man who was arrested is the renowned pianist.
China Escalates Crackdown
Following the announcement the China Musicians Association expelled Li for his "vile social impact." Born in Chongqing, a city in southwest China, Li is one of the few classical musicians who enjoy global rock-star-like fame. Today he is a household name in China and is one of the most sough-after artists.
That said, artists have been reeling under fear over the past few months after Xi's government pursued a cleanup of the entertainment industry by going on an aggressive crackdown.
The country's watchdog has even banned movie stars with "incorrect" politics, capping salaries and reining in celebrity fan culture. Actress Zhao Wei was recently banned from China's internet as part of the campaign, with her works being removed from streaming sites and her fan club cut off from Weibo.
Li's fate now hangs in balance. He shot to fame in 2000 when he became the youngest first-prize winner at the Chopin competition in Warsaw at the age of 18. He then went on to perform at Carnegie Hall and with leading orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. It now needs to be seen what the Chinese government does next.