Daily Mail

Free speech row as Chinese tourists ask pianist to stop filming at station

A FREE speech dispute erupted after a railway station pianist told a group of tourists: ‘ We’re not in China now’.

- By Cameron Charters

Brendan Kavanagh said it was ‘ridiculous’ that he was reprimande­d by police for making the ‘factual statement’ at london’s St Pancras Internatio­nal.

Mr Kavanagh, 57, was filming himself playing the public piano – donated by Sir Elton John – when a Chinese crowd appeared in the background. The group, clutching China flags, demanded the footage be deleted or they would sue.

Mr Kavanagh told them, ‘We are not in China now’ as he explained that in Britain anyone can be filmed lawfully in a public space.

The musician was accused of racism because he asked if they were members of the Chinese Communist Party when he saw them waving China’s flag. The group is thought to be working with a TV station in China making videos for next month’s Chinese new Year.

The heated exchange about free speech attracted the attention of the British Transport Police – with one female officer telling Mr Kavanagh that he could not tell the group ‘We are not in China now’. She then ordered him not to upload the footage onto YouTube.

Mr Kavanagh said: ‘It was just completely ridiculous. She completely got it wrong and over-reacted.

‘The phrase she had the problem with was, “We are not in China now” and she said I cannot say that because there are Chinese people here and I will offend them. I said it was a factual statement.

‘If I had behaved like that in China and started telling the Chinese what to do, it would have been completely unacceptab­le.

‘If you watch that video, it is all about their rights, and what I could not do and what they could do.

‘I thought, “Blimey we are in london, and I have got a bunch of Chinese people telling me what I cannot do”. The old British instinct kicked in.’

The video was put up on YouTube and has been watched more than 2.7million times.

In it, Mr Kavanagh said: ‘I am sorry, but we are not in Communist China. We are in a free country. We can film where we want. When you are in Rome, you do as the Romans do.’

He told the police officer: ‘We are in a democracy. We are not in China and that is not racist.

‘That is the truth. That is what our forefather­s fought for.’

The officer responded: ‘Exactly, but you cannot just say things like that either, that we are not in China.’

She added: ‘They [the group] have requested that the video where they have approached gets deleted and is not used on your channel because there is money being made and they work for a company where their faces or voices cannot be shown.’ The

police officers moved the Chinese group away from Mr Kavanagh and they left the station.

no arrests were made. a spokeswoma­n for the BTP said: ‘We are aware of a video circulatin­g on social media of a disagreeme­nt in St Pancras railway station on January 19.

‘officers on patrol came across the incident and the situation was de- escalated. We are not investigat­ing this as a racial offence.’

‘What I said was a factual statement’

 ?? ?? Off key: Brendan Kavanagh at St Pancras in front of the Chinese group
Off key: Brendan Kavanagh at St Pancras in front of the Chinese group

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom