It would have been a privilege for her to complete the Crossover Project by launching the US album, Sun Ho told the court today.
Sun Ho, City Harvest Church’s co-founder and wife of its senior pastor Kong Hee, took the stand today as a defense witness called by former fund manager Chew Eng Han. The singer that fronted the Crossover Project, Ho told the court today how the Crossover Project began and what it was like working on the US album. Her answers served to answer questions that had surfaced during the trial, such as why the album was delayed for several years.
Echoing Kong Hee’s testimony on the stand, Ho told the court how her husband had a burden for the young people in Asia after seeing how Taiwanese youth preferred pop culture to attending church. In 2002, after Ho received a prophecy from Ulf Ekman, a minister who was close to the church, that she would have opportunity to sing to millions and lead them to Christ, she launched her music career in Taiwan. She told the court that the Crossover Project served three purposes: to use contemporary music to reach out to youth and bring them to Christ, to encourage Christian artists to share their faith and lastly, to engage culture and expand CHC’s humanitarian efforts.
In 2003, American minister Robin Harfouche gave Ho’s Mandarin album to producer Justin Herz. Thereafter, Herz helped with the production of one of Ho’s Mandarin albums. He was, at the same time, looking for an Asian artist to break into the US and was keen to promote Sun. When Herz roped in producer Peter Rafaelson to write an English song for Sun, that marked the start of the US Crossover, she told the court. Subsequently, Herz brought in other music producers like David Foster, Wyclef Jean and Johnny Wright to produce Ho’s US album.
Ho told the court that she had great faith in the US album because she believed it was what God wanted her to do and she worked very hard for it. Moreover, she respected Wyclef Jean and believed that he would make the album commercially successful in the US market, given his track record breaking Shakira into America.
The court heard that at the end of 2007, Ho went on a tour with Jean to perform in different cities in the US and Europe. Jean saw that people responded very well to Ho’s performances and wanted to re-work the US album to make it more edgy. The deadline for the album was then pushed to 2009. However, Jean’s fee proved to be prohibitive, and the collaboration ended in late 2008.
Herz then brought in Wright as co-producer. But in 2009, Ho had to undergo two major surgeries for colic adhesion. This pushed the deadline further back. By March 2010, two months before investigation started, the album was nearly complete, Ho told the court. She was rehearsing and preparing to go on a radio tour and performances in different cities across America that was to start on Jun 15, 2010. The album was slated to be launched on Aug 17, 2010. The Commercial Affairs Department launched its investigation of the City Harvest leaders on 31 May 2010.
Chew pointed out that after the investigation, he had suggested Ho return to US for the album launch. Today in court, he asked why did she not do so.
Ho told the court that it had been her intention to launch the US album. Before she came back to Singapore for the investigation, the album was already at the tail-end of the production and she was ready to go on the promotional tour. But, she was also a wife and her husband had been accused of wrong-doing. At the same time, her son was having emotional meltdowns in school, facing classmates who wanted to know if his father was in jail. Ho questioned if it was right for her to leave her husband at such a time and to take his son away with her to go ahead with her album plans.
Ho also told the court that co-founder of City Harvest Church, she was concerned about the church and wanted to be around for the members and to answer their questions. On top of all that, Ho was on bail at the time and was only released from bail in 2013.
However, in her mind, launching the US album was never a closed deal, Ho said today. Everyone on the team had worked so hard for the album. “If God is willing, it would be my privilege to complete the Crossover,” she said to the court.
HOW MUCH DID HO KNOW?
When it came to the financing of the project, Ho told the court that, since the start of the project, she knew Wahju Hanafi to be the main financier, and that there were other sponsors. When Hanafi met with Herz in 2004, he had also introduced himself as main financier. Ho said that she didn’t have an impression how much had been spent on the album until March 2010 when she was emailed the figures.
Chew tendered a new exhibit, a Blackberry exchanged from 2010, in which EMI Asia told Steve Greenberg, the CEO of music marketing company S Curve that Ho only sold 15,000 to 20,000 copies of Mandarin albums. Ho was not happy about this and in the BB pins, had asked for newspaper reports that she recalled said her five Mandarin albums sold more than four million copies. Ho told the court that she had recollection that this figure had been reported.
Ho testified that she had no personal knowledge of the album sales as she did not know how the record company tabulated sales. She based her understanding on the announcement that the general manager of Warner Asia, then Ho’s record label, made at a press conference that her album Gain had sold more than 500,000 copies in Asia.
Ho also attributed her impression that the albums did well to the large number of concert goers at her shows, and the large number of CDs she signed after the shows.
Referring to a Xtron cashflow spreadsheet that recorded Ho’s royalties, Chew suggested to Ho that it was impossible that the album sold over four million copies. Ho replied that she did not know how the royalties were tabulated. What she did remember was that she had waived her royalties or part thereof to donate to humanitarian works.
Following Ho’s evidence in chief, senior counsel Edwin Tong, Kong Hee’s defense lawyer, conducted his cross-examination. He produced a Taiwanese newspaper report of the Warner Asia GM announcing over 500,000 copies of album Gain sold in Asia. Ho confirmed that it was the same press conference she had referred to.
In response to Tong’s question, Ho said that she had never worked with EMI Asia and couldn’t understand why the record company would say the Mandarin albums sold only 15,000 to 20,000 copies.
Was there any pessimism or doubt on the US team regarding the expected performance of her US album? asked Tong.
Ho replied that there was great confidence on everyone’s part—there was no doubt that the album would be a commercial success; as such, there was no weight to the suggestion that there was lack of confidence about the success of the album because of EMI Asia’s comments.
Ho added that she had always felt suported by Chew and his wife, Janet until they left the church with their family.
The prosecution, in cross-examining Ho, put to her that she did not know for a fact how her music career was financed.
Ho replied that she understood it to be financed by Wahju Hanafi; she also knew that he had gone to Los Angeles to meet with Justin Herz in 2004, although she did not know what form the financing took.
The prosecution nevertheless suggested that Ho was in no position to give evidence about the financial performance of her music career. Ho agreed.
Chew’s second witness, former church member Sun Yuen Ping, was called next. Chew had wanted her to testify about his character but it was disallowed by the judge. The court also heard that the witness had invested $350,000 into Xtron through Chew. The prosecution later questioned her if she received any of her returns from Chew, and she testified she had received nothing back.
The final defense witness will take the stand tomorrow morning at 9.30am.
WHAT SUN SAID:
After 9/11, we went to Hong Kong with Pastor Ulf. And at the street of Hong Kong, I remember we passed by a electronic store and there was a TV that was playing rock music concert. And Pastor Ulf turned to me and said that, “Sun, I believe that you will have the opportunity to sing to millions and God will give you an opportunity to reach out to them to convert them into Christianity”…I believe that the vision has come to pass. I didn’t count how many people I have sung before, but I believe that they are in tens and hundreds of thousands. And the best thing that I feel privileged to be part of, your Honour, is to be able to share my testimony, and also invite them to accept Jesus Christ into their lives.
I’m very privileged to be able to see in most of these concerts, at least 50 per cent of the people would actually lift up their hands and walk forward and give their hearts to Jesus. And those churches that partner with us in this outreach concerts would have counsellors ready, and they would take down the names of these people that responded. And the churches would be — will reach out to them and integrate them to the respective churches in the cities… from what I heard is that churches has grown, and new churches has sprung forth because of the Crossover salvation decisions.
I always feel that the church supported me in this whole Crossover Project. I remember sometime in 2002, the church prayed for me and commissioned me to the Asia Crossover. And sometime in 2004, after I had a big concert in Singapore, the next day we have a service in Indoor Stadium, and the whole church prayed for me and commissioned me to the US Crossover Project. I know that they have faith in God and this mission.
I think that we always know that the church is supportive of the Crossover Project. We just didn’t want the objective of the Crossover Project — that is, to reach out to the non-Christian — to be jeopardised. We don’t want the public to perceive me as a gospel singer, because if they perceive me as a gospel singer and that this is a project of the church, then the non-Christian will not be so open to listen to my songs, because non-Christian doesn’t really gravitate naturally to a gospel singer. No matter how good the music is, they might not be interested to listen to gospel songs. Then they will not come to the concerts and will not be able to hear the testimony or have a chance to receive Jesus.
Your Honour, I have great confidence in the US album. Because first of all, I believe that this is something God wants me to do, and I was working very hard at it.
After the CAD started its investigation, I remember Eng Han having that conversation with me, urging me to go back. Your Honour, perhaps, if I push myself, I could do that. But, your Honour, I’m also a wife, and my husband, he’s been alleged of wrongdoing, and my son was having a lot of emotional meltdowns because of innocent classmates asking him is his father in jail already.
I just don’t know as a wife, as a mother, is it the right thing for me to leave my husband and not stand by him to go through this period of time and also to bring his son away from him, your Honour? And if something really happened to Kong, honestly, your Honour, I don’t know can I manage to take care of my son alone with the burden of the Crossover Project on my shoulder? I don’t know whether can I go on performing as if nothing has happened, your Honour.
And I was also concerned about the church, because we are not the only one that has to answer questions. Every single member of the church has their family members and friends that ask them. And as a co-founder, I want to be around to calm the church. I want to do my part to answer as many questions as I can. So, your Honour, I — I don’t know can I realistically do that. But in my mind, it was never a closed deal. I always thought to myself that when everything is settled and if God is still willing, it will be my privilege to be able to complete the Crossover, since we all — not just me — have put so much effort into it.
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