Asia News: mm2 Asia Invests; Johnny & Associates Shakeup; IR Plan Stalls; China Censorship; Jay Chou Touring

Jolin Tsai Performs In Nanning
CENSORED IN CHINA: Jolin Tsai performs on the stage during her concert at Guangxi Sports Centre Stadium on Aug. 12 in Nanning, China. The singer alleges Chinese authorities censored her set list containing an LGBTQ-themed song. (Photo by Xia Wenning/VCG via Getty Images)

Mm2 Asia Increases Investment in Unipact HK

Mm2 Asia, the concert arm of the events presenter, increased its investment in concert promoter Unipact HK, according to The Edge Singapore.

The investment will make the companies partners with access to the most comprehensive artist lineups and market coverage over Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and Southeast Asia.

As an integrated concert organizer, Unipact has “the capacity to provide technical production and creative solution services for large-scale and extra-large-scale concert projects,” says The Edge Singapore.

Mm2 executive chairman Melvin Ang stated, “We have seen incredible demand for live events in Asia. Working together with the Unipact group and our existing network and resources, we would be participating in another Asian concert powerhouse team to create multi-leg, multi-territory show opportunities. This in turn will grow our market presence and create greater value for our shareholders.”

Unipact Managing Director Dominic Choi added, “We are very pleased to extend our cooperation with the mm2 Group through actively supporting the strategic development of the pan-Asian live entertainment industry. We are excited for the opportunity to work with mm2 in their businesses across the whole entertainment industry … and look forward to leveraging the synergies between the different media businesses and our vast China business network.”


Johnny & Associates Removes President

As expected, Japan’s premier male idol production company, Johnny & Associates, has removed its president, Julie Keiko Fujishima, in the wake of admissions that its late founder sexually abused many of its charges over the decades.

At a Tokyo press conference Sept. 7, Fujishima announced she was stepping down and would be replaced by Noriyuki Higashiyama, a former star for the company who was once touted as founder Johnny Kitagawa’s replacement as president.

However, this act of contrition was met with skepticism by the press since it was not accompanied by an attendant change in the name of the company. With Kitagawa’s name still on the letterhead, many commentators said that the company hasn’t faced up to the horrible truth and, in fact, many companies that use Johnny’s idols for advertising purposes – which arguably accounts for the lion’s share of the company’s revenues – are seriously thinking of canceling contracts.

Though the idols Johnny’s represents still have solid backing from fans, the general public may be less enamored of anyone associated with the brand, which could spell trouble for Johnny’s in the near future since the company’s stars already do a lot of work as actors and TV presenters.

In addition, Higashiyama comes with his own baggage in that there have been allegations in the past of him bullying younger idols and even engaging in sexual harassment. When questioned about these reports at the press conference Higashiyama did not deny them outright, but rather said he couldn’t remember the incidents cited.

Integrated Resort Plan Stalls

The Osaka city government is pushing the opening of a planned casino resort project to the latter half of 2030, the city government announced Sept. 5. Originally, when the city, along with other local governments in Japan, submitted development plans for integrated resorts to the central government in 2022, its intention was to open the resort in the winter of 2029.

However, according to Jiji Press, there has been a delay because official approval of the plan didn’t arrive until April of this year.

In addition, Osaka, along with its prefectural counterpart, announced that the initial investment in the project has increased from 1.08 trillion yen ($7.4 billion) to 1.27 trillion yen due to increased construction materials costs.

Once the central government approves the revised plan, Osaka will sign a contract with the operator of the casino resort, a company led by MGM Resorts of the U.S. and Orix of Japan. Approval could come as soon as the end of September.


Singer Jolin Tsai Alleges LGBTQ Censorship

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports that an LGBTQ-themed song was removed from the set list of Taiwanese pop singer Jolin Tsai during at least one concert on her tour of mainland China. The song, titled “Womxnly,” is about a Taiwanese teenager whose dead body was found in a school lavatory after he was bullied by classmates for his feminine appearance. It has become a kind of anthem in Taiwan for the LGBTQ community.

When Tsai performed the song in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, it was reported that she was denied the use of a rainbow spotlight during the song, and when she performed in the city of Changsha, the song was cut from the show.

A post on Tsai’s publicity website said, “The setlist included 42 songs. ‘Womxnly’ was scrapped, most likely because of censorship.”

If it was censorship, it seems to be following a recent pattern. Another Taiwanese pop star, A-Mei, was forced to remove the song “Rainbow” from her setlist when she performed recently in Beijing. At the same concert, fans who arrived with rainbow-themed clothing and paraphernalia had to remove them before entering the concert venue. A-Mei has been very vocal about her support for the LGBTQ community in Taiwan, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Cheng Chi-wei, an LGBTQ activist in Taiwan, told RFA, “A-Mei and Jolin Tsai’s gender-friendly expressions are inconsistent with China’s main theme tune, which is the suppression of sexual minorities and diverse voices.”

Jay Chou Touring Gets Investment Boost

Singapore-based entertainment company GHY Culture & Media has announced that one of its indirect subsidiaries has entered into cooperation agreements to invest in a series of Jay Chou concerts in China and elsewhere, according to the Straits Times.

The agreements are part of the company’s strategy to “ramp up concert productions in Asia” as it anticipates a “strong rebound” for China’s live performance market following three years of pandemic-related inactivity.

As a result, GHY will have rights to participate, through the subsidiary Beijing Changxin, in concert production for Chou’s concerts in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand and Japan on a “long-term basis.” (Hong Kong and Macau are excluded from the deal.) Beijing Changxin is already involved in shows in two Chinese cities on Chou’s current “Carnival World Tour” as the designated organizer.

Jay Chou is one of the biggest Mandopop singers in the world.