The Fall of a Chinese Pop Star, and Calvin Trillin’s Happy Marriage

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For some years, Denise Ho was one of the most popular singers in Asia. A Hong Kong native, she performed the style known as Cantopop in mainland China and in foreign countries with Chinese émigré populations. But, as Ho told the staff writer Jiayang Fan, she began to have qualms about the often-saccharine content of the genre. “Is that all? Is that all I can do with my songs, my career—just for personal wealth, and all that?” She was one of the first stars in China to come out as a lesbian, which the government took in stride; but, when she took part in political demonstrations in Hong Kong, she was arrested on television and detained. Authorities began to cancel her concerts, and to block access to her work on the Internet in China. Her endorsements followed suit. “I expected to be banned from China, but I wasn’t expecting the government to react to it in such a way,” she says. “The main goal is to silence everyone—especially the younger generations—with fear.” Now Denise Ho is trying to rebuild her career as something unfamiliar in China: an underground protest singer. Plus: Kai-Fu Lee on China’s tech sector and the challenge it poses to Silicon Valley; and the longtime staff writer Calvin Trillin, who puts his happy marriage onstage in a new play, “About Alice.” “This play certainly would have failed Drama 101 . . . But you have to write about what you know.”

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