A pianist is becoming a cause célèbre on social media after a group of Chinese individuals, who identified themselves as a television crew, demanded that he remove their faces from his perfectly legal livestream.
According to Business Insider, Brendan Kavanagh — a musician with over 2 million subscribers on YouTube — got into a spat with the group of six on Friday as he was playing at a public piano inside London’s St. Pancras International train station. During his performance, one woman in the group — who all were holding Chinese flags — began recording him with her phone.
Later in the stream, Kavanagh stepped away from the piano to let a man he was playing a duet with play solo and asked one of the women in the group whether she would like to dance. She declined.
All seemed to proceed well from there until several minutes later, when the woman who was filming Kavanagh stepped forward to ask if he had captured footage of them: “We are here filming for Chinese TV, did you film all of us in your cameras?” she asked.
He said he wasn’t sure, then asked if livestreaming them was against the rules. (It wasn’t, but apparently someone forgot what country they were in.)
“We’re not allowed because we’re for Chinese TV,” the woman said.
Another man in the group chimed in, telling Kavanagh they had “an agreement with other people” to retain the rights to their “voice or images” and not have them broadcast online.
As the man threatened legal action, Kavanagh responded, “We’re in a free country. We’re not in Communist China now, you know?”
You could probably tell where this was going to go: “I’m sorry, this is racist now,” the man in the Chinese group responded.
“You’re not obviously used to democracy,” Kavanagh added.
The battle of words escalated until police came. They initially took Kavanagh’s side: “You’re in a public place,” an officer told the group. “If they’re filming, they have the right to do it in a public place.”
However, a second officer said Kavanagh needed to stop his stream and was “not allowed to put this on your YouTube channel because this is a police matter.”
When he asked why, the officer responded, “Because there’s money being made, they work for a company, and their faces can’t be shown on TV or somebody’s channel.” She also said the group accused him of racist remarks and attempts to indecently touch them. (Kavanagh had reached for a flag a woman was holding at some point during the stream, causing the man he was arguing with to raise his voice, saying, “Stop touching her.” It’s unclear whether this passes as “indecent” touching in mainland China, but not in the rest of the free world.)
Kavanagh refused to shut his stream down, though.
“You’re not their private security agent,” he told the officer.
The clips have gone viral on social media — both on X and YouTube, where most of the nearly 10 million viewers combined tended to take Kavanagh’s side, and on China’s state-sponsored Weibo social media farce, where the response was predictably on the side of the CCP thugs:
This is insane. Brendan Kavanagh, a youtuber and pianist was legally playing and filming in a public place.
A group visiting from communist China didn’t like it and told him he couldn’t film them.
The police were terrible. This is Britain. Not China.pic.twitter.com/xKLmoDgCLC
— Lee Harris (@addicted2newz) January 21, 2024
The full video, meanwhile, is here:
In an interview with Fox News, Kavanagh said he was surprised by the fact that the group got their “knickers in a twist” over the video — as well as their assumption from there on in that Merrie England was just as despotic as their homeland and that they could act accordingly.
“I think it’s caught the imagination of the world because it’s brought on [concerns about] culture wars, authoritarianism, political correctness, all in one sort of ten-minute encounter,” Kavanagh said.
“All I said was you got a communist flag. You’re telling me what to do. We’re in Britain now.”
Today in Britain the CCP demanded a piano player in a public place to stop filming because they were in the background 😬 pic.twitter.com/2ZXbSfpWhI
— non aesthetic things (@PicturesFoIder) January 21, 2024
He also urged everyone to “put the situation in reverse.”
“Imagine if myself and some friends had gone over to China, found the piano, started waving around Union Jacks, and started bossing around the Chinese at the piano, telling them what to do, shouting at them and instructing them,” he said. “Would that have been appropriate behavior on my part? And I think the vast majority of people would say, absolutely not.”
In fact, he’d probably end up in prison were he to do that. (Also never mind the fact that, as it stands now, Kavanagh told Fox News he might end up in a “gulag” were he to visit China in the future.)
It’s worth noting that neither Business Insider nor Fox News could confirm that the individuals worked for Chinese TV, and the U.K. Daily Mail reported Tuesday that the individuals were merely “tourists.” I don’t know whether falsely passing yourself as a CCP TV crew or not merits the gulag upon return to glorious China — but it certainly deserves viral infamy, if little else.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.