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Richmond pianist respects decision to ban shamed Chinese superstar

Police in China’s capital Beijing say famed international pianist Li Yundi is a suspect in a prostitution case.
Anna Vavilova

A celebrated Richmond-based pianist said she respects a Chinese performing arts authority’s decision to expel one of its most famous members, after he was allegedly caught with a prostitute.

The owner of World of Music and Arts in Steveston, Anna Vavilova, was asked by the Richmond News for her reaction to Chinese superstar pianist Li Yundi being a suspect in a prostitution case in China. 

The news quickly went viral across China and then onto Chinese-language social media circles, such as WeChat in B.C. and Richmond.

According to reports from Chinese-state run media, a man surnamed Li and a female were caught after the Beijing police received a tip-off from the public. 

The police hadn't revealed the suspect's identity at that time, but the Chinese media outlets later confirmed it to be 39-year-old Li Yundi. 

In a matter of hours, the China Association of Performing Arts and the Chinese Musicians' Association announced their expulsion of Li as a member due to the "negative social impact." 

Vavilova said she respects the organizations' decisions to remove someone if that member allegedly commits crimes. 

However, she added that it is “now up to the public to decide whether they will still attend Li's concerts or not.”

One such person would be Richmondite Kevin Zhao, who has been closely following the news on Li.

He said that, while he acknowledges why Li has been arrested, he thinks the two Chinese music associations took it too far by removing his membership.

"Celebrities should be role models for the public. Li did pay a price for (allegedly) violating the laws. But his musical talents and skillsets didn't just disappear overnight,” Zhao told the News.

Zhao added that he’s a little “heartbroken” to see Li’s career potentially being destroyed overnight.

Asked about the allegation itself, Vavilova said that people “should always be prepared for the consequences before doing anything.”

"Prostitution is illegal in China. Everyone might have a different opinion that it might not sound as horrible as other crimes, but it doesn't change the fact that he (allegedly) broke the law.”

Vavilova noted that it's important to understand a person, including their background and experiences, before making any judgments. 

In Li's case, she pointed out that he and his family came from a humble beginning and the Chinese government sponsored him to attend concerts around the world after recognizing his talents. 

"He would not be able to get where he is now without the help from the government. Unlike other Hollywood movie stars, he has a little more of an obligation and closer connection with China," added Vavilova. 

Li began playing piano as a little child in China, and both of his parents were workers for a Steel and Iron Company in his hometown, Chongqing. 

He later became the youngest pianist to win the prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition in 2000 at the age of 18 and the first Chinese person in the competition's history. 

After that, his musical talents were recognized by people in China and sparked world tours, making him one of China's best-known international artists.

-With files from the Canadian Press