Li Yundi detained in China on suspicion of prostitution

A prominent Chinese pianist, Li Yundi, has been arrested on suspicion of prostitution in Beijing, Chinese state news organizations reported Thursday.

Mr. Li, 39, who rose to fame in China as a performer and reality TV personality, has been accused of soliciting a 29-year-old woman, according to People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party in power.

Beijing authorities did not provide many details about the incident, saying in a statement that a 39-year-old man with the surname Li admitted to wrongdoing and was detained “according to the law. “.

Apparently referring to Mr. Li’s case, authorities in Beijing later posted a photo of piano keys alongside the text: “The world is not just black and white, but you have to distinguish between the black and white. You should never be wrong.

The Chinese government often uses prostitution charges to intimidate its political enemies, and it was not clear why Mr. Li was chosen and what punishment he might face. Mr. Li and his representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reports of Mr. Li’s detention quickly became one of the most talked about topics on the Chinese internet, with hundreds of thousands of people participating. Many expressed shock at the detention of Mr. Li, who rose to fame after becoming one of the youngest people to win the prestigious Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw in 2000, when he was 18 years old.

“It has accumulated popularity for many years, and now it is ruined after 20 or 30 years of hard work,” wrote one user on Weibo, a Chinese site similar to Twitter.

Under the leadership of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the government has taken a hard line on artists and has led efforts to “purify” the country’s cultural environment, often in pursuit of political goals. In recent months, authorities have tried to curb China’s boisterous celebrity culture, warning of the dangers of celebrity worship and fan clubs.

Mr. Li, who has more than 20 million Weibo followers, is a regular guest at the annual Lunar New Year gala on Chinese television, which is watched by hundreds of millions of people. This year, he performed “I Love You China”, a patriotic song.

He became famous as a pianist and in the West he is sometimes referred to only by his first name, Yundi. But in China, he rose to prominence more recently for his work on reality shows, most notably “Call Me By Fire,” in which male celebrities compete to form a performance group. Several episodes of the show were taken from the Chinese internet on Thursday after news of Mr. Li’s detention spread.

Chinese commentators have cited this case as an example of a lack of ethics among artists.

“No matter how talented he is, he won’t be able to express his sadness through the performance once his image is damaged,” the People’s Daily wrote in a social media post. “There can only be a future by upholding morality and respecting the law.”

The Chinese government has a habit of using prostitution charges to sideline political enemies, and experts have said Mr. Li’s detention should be critically examined.

Jerome A. Cohen, a law professor at New York University who specializes in the Chinese legal system, said the lack of transparency regarding his case was troubling.

“Can we be sure that the alleged facts are true? said Professor Cohen. “Prostitution is such a long-standing claim of the Communist Party against political opponents that one should be wary of this affair. “

Claire Fu contributed research.

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