China’s ‘Prince of Piano’ Arrested for Prostitution

By Jonathan Walker | October 23, 2021
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
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SHANGHAI, CHINA - NOVEMBER 20: Performers Leslie Odom Jr., Li Yundi, Jane Zhang, Miguel and Harry Styles backstage during 2017 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show In Shanghai at Mercedes-Benz Arena on November 20, 2017 in Shanghai, China. (Image: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Victoria's Secret)

39-year-old Li Yundi, a renowned pianist in China known as the “prince of piano,” was recently arrested for allegedly soliciting a prostitute. Li’s arrest is seen as part of Beijing’s crackdown on celebrities who are identified as having a bad influence on the public.

According to police reports, Li and the sex worker, only identified by her surname Chen, have admitted to committing illegal behavior. Both have been placed in administrative detention. The police have not stated how long Li will be detained. According to Chinese law, soliciting prostitution can land a person in detention for up to 15 days.

“The arrest came when local police, following up on reports lodged by Chaoyang residents, had noticed that Li would often solicit prostitutes at a fixed time regularly, and thus waited by the door and eventually busted Li and Chen… Police have also found the money transfer records on their WeChat accounts,” according to a report by the state-run Global Times.

Li came into the spotlight after becoming the youngest pianist to win the XIV International Chopin Piano Competition in 2000 at the age of 18. He has performed at China’s largest annual gala, the Spring Festival Gala, five times. Li has also been awarded titles like “National May Fourth Youth Ambassador” and “China’s Top Ten Youth Leader.”

The arrest has become a hot topic in China, with the hashtag “LiYundiDetainedForProstitution” garnering almost 800 million views just two hours after Li’s arrest.

“I’m curious to know how the public found out about him. When you see a 39-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman go into an apartment building together, how did people know that it’s a prostitute and her customer? Why not a married couple, friends, hookup buddies?” one Weibo user commented.

Prostitution is rampant in China, with estimates showing tens of millions of sex workers in the country. Communist Party officials and businessmen are frequently outed for keeping multiple mistresses. 

China’a state-run CCTV reported that some celebrities have “frequently challenged” law and morality. “Abiding by discipline and laws is the bottom line… Anyone who dares to cross this bottom line and challenges laws and social morality is doomed,” the media outlet added.

Li has been banned from posting on Weibo, where he has more than 20 million followers. The Sichuan Conservatory of Music, where Li was posted as the deputy head of the Piano Art Institute, has removed his name from their website.

The Chinese Musicians’ Association terminated Li’s membership, citing “wide public attention and extremely bad social influence.” Mango TV removed seven episodes from a popular talent show, in which Li was a featured guest. Mango TV is one of Li’s key business partners.