Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has been an open critic of China’s internet censorship, so it’s probably not surprising he just posted a picture of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests on his Instagram account:
The photo, of the main protest site at Admiralty, looks innocuous enough, but it’s still a somewhat unusual move for a public figure these days. Protesters haven’t received much recognition from the many celebrities and business figures from democratic countries passing through Hong Kong—perhaps due to fears of offending China, which now accounts for a sizable hunk of their company earnings, endorsement deals and box office receipts.
One famous foreigner who did openly visit the protests, smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G, quickly repudiated his support for demonstrators after being chided by his mainland Chinese fans. China’s foreign ministry even issued a statement after his visit, warning others away:
Kenny G’s musical works are widely popular in China, but China’s position on the illegal Occupy Central activities in Hong Kong is very clear. We hope that foreign governments and individuals speak and act cautiously and not support the Occupy Central and other illegal activities in any form.
Schmidt, who was in town to promote the book he co-wrote with former Google product manager Jonathan Rosenberg, refrained from making any comment about the protests on Twitter, and doesn’t appear to have been thronged for selfies by the social media-savvy protesters. In any case, unlike Kenny G, Google may not have much to lose—its search engine and services have been blocked in China for months.