Pianist gets into 'culture war' brawl with Chinese nationals enraged about being filmed: 'Knickers in a twist'

British pianist Brendan Kavanagh quipped that if he ever visited China, he'd probably end up in the 'gulag' because of the encounter

When Chinese nationals confronted a British man over the right to use their images in public, he had no idea the exchange would become a viral video that fascinated millions. 

"You're obviously not used to democracy," Brendan Kavanagh, the British man in the video, said at one particularly hot moment during the clash at St. Pancras train station in London. The fight ultimately ended with threats of legal action and the police getting involved to deescalate. 

Kavanagh, a British pianist with 2.2 million followers on YouTube (@DrKBoogieWoogie), was live-streaming a public performance of his piano riffs when the group was incidentally captured in the background. The Chinese nationals asked him not to record them, insisting they did not want their images online. That's when things got heated.


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Chinese nationals get into a heated argument with British pianist Brendan Kavanagh over whether they had a right not to be captured in his livestream. (YouTube: Brendan Kavanagh @DrKBoogieWoogie)

"We're appreciating the music, and they are filming us and were nicely coming here saying please don't - don't film us. Don't use that image. That's all we're trying to say," one of the members of the group complained. 

"Just make sure that we are very, very secure. We don't want our voice or picture being filmed. That's just the relationship between you and me," another member, who shortly after threatened "legal action," said. "All of us, we cannot share our images online. That's our choice, that's our right." 

The Chinese nationals claimed to work for an entity with tight restrictions on having their images released on social media, according to a Metro police officer who spoke to Kavanagh on the video. 

Under Chinese law, no party is entitled to use an image of another person without that person's consent. However, to the Chinese nationals' surprise, a British police officer sided with the pianist. 

The Brit piano player noted they were not in "communist China" – they were in the United Kingdom, where there is "freedom."

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Brendan Kavanagh is a British pianist. He specializes in playing the boogie-woogie genre and traditional Irish music themes.  (YouTube: Brendan Kavanagh @DrKBoogieWoogie)

"We're in a free country," Kavanagh said. "We're not in communist China."

For this remark, he was called "racist" by one of the nationals. 

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do," he said. 

The video of the exchange quickly went viral. Kavanagh believes the confrontation showcased the cultural clash between the West and East, democracy and communism. 

Kavanagh told Fox News Digital he was shocked by the authoritarian tone the Chinese nationals used after getting their "knickers in a twist" over his video. Members of the group demanded he speak to them in a certain way and to not be filmed or voice recorded. They also demanded that the pianist apologize and said he needed to "educate" himself about China.


"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," he told Fox News Digital. 

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"Shouty guy" complains to police about being captured on a musician's livestream. (YouTube: Brendan Kavanagh @DrKBoogieWoogie)

In the viral video, Kavanagh commented about the group holding the "communist flag" – the Chinese flag – which led to him being called "racist" and "discriminating."

"All I said was you got a communist flag. You're telling me what to do. We're in Britain now," the pianist said. 

Then, another Brit got involved. The Chinese nationals began to argue with him, too, about their purported "rights."

This Brit told the Chinese nationals they should get lost if they didn't want to be filmed in someone's public livestream. 

"Listen, if you don't like it, f--k off then," the Brit said. 

One of the Chinese nationals, a female, then claimed the man couldn't say that.

"You cannot say like this," she said. "You cannot say like this way. Who are you?"

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Woman gets angry at Brit when her group is told to get lost if they don't like being captured on film. (YouTube: Brendan Kavanagh @DrKBoogieWoogie)

"Who are you?" the Brit responded before bustling off.  

The pianist, reflecting on the clash, said, "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 told Fox News Digital. "Would that have been appropriate behavior on my part? And I think the vast majority of people would say, absolutely not."

Kavauagh called one of the members the "shouty guy" and said when he got involved "it turned into a pantomime."

At one point, the "shouty guy" exhibited particularly "peculiar behavior," Kavanagh said. He loudly shouted at Kavanagh not to touch one of the girls as the pianist was reaching his hand to point out that she was holding a Chinese flag, as the video footage showed. 

"Why are you touching her? Stop touching her! Don't touch her! …You are not the same age. Please do not touch her," he said.

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Brendan Kavanagh, a boogie woogie pianist, clashes with "shouty guy" in London. (YouTube: Brendan Kavanagh @DrKBoogieWoogie)

The pianist jumped back and looked shocked by how loud the man screamed, then denied he tried to touch the woman.

The "shouty guy" said, "You're approaching her with your hand," and demanded an apology. 

The pianist said, "You're getting a bit aggressive," and demanded an apology as well. 

The "shouty guy" then repeatedly said, "Do not touch her." 

"Do you want to keep saying that?" responded the pianist, who then added a dance to the repeated words. 

Kavanagh's dance angered the "shouty guy." 


"You are mocking me?" the "shouty guy" asked.

"I am, yeah, what are you going to do about it?" Kavanagh replied.

"Wait for it," the Chinese national responded.

"Yeah, I'm waiting for it," Kavanagh retorted.

"What's your name?" the Chinese national asked. "If you don't want to answer, that is your right."

"Oh, is it my right? Are you going to tell me my rights?"

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Woman asks Brendan Kavanagh not to film her group in London. (YouTube: Brendan Kavanagh @DrKBoogieWoogie)

The Chinese nationals then got the police involved. The "shouty guy" explained to the officer that they had requested Kavanagh not use their image. The officer said it was his right to film in public. 

Kavanugh also said that he was accused of saying "racist" things – which is a hate speech crime in the U.K. Luckily, he said, he had filmed the encounter.

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