Russian cellist fired from Beijing orchestra after off-key behavior

Principal cellist Oleg Vedernikov rehearses with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra in Beijing on March 13.

Story highlights

  • Beijing Symphony Orchestra fired its principal cellist after his boorish behavior was caught on camera
  • The Russian national refused to remove his bare feet from a fellow train passenger's headrest, taunting and cursing at her
  • Beijing Symphony Orchestra said the incident damaged the group's reputation, following widespread public outcry on Sina Weibo

The principal cellist of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra has been dismissed from his post after a video of his boorish behavior on a passenger train last week outraged users on Chinese social networks.

Russian national Oleg Vedernikov was filmed with his bare feet placed on the headrest of a female passenger in front of him. He refused to remove them after she repeatedly objected, then taunted her and used obscenities in Chinese as she swatted at his feet with a newspaper and threw magazines and plastic bottles at him in frustration. When train staff showed up, he denied knowledge of the incident.

But the heated exchange, captured on video by a fellow passenger, provoked widespread public criticism after it was widely circulated on Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo.

The orchestra announced Vedernikov's dismissal in a statement published Monday on its official website.

"Beijing Symphony Orchestra firmly believes that Oleg's conduct has badly damaged the orchestra's reputation," the statement said. "In accordance with the orchestra's regulations and the terms of his employment contract, Beijing Symphony Orchestra has dismissed him."

Music director and principal conductor Tan Lihua said, "the orchestra, as a civilized envoy of high culture, requires all of its staff, including foreign performers, to comply with the country's laws and regulations as well as traditional moral standards."

Vedernikov's dismissal is the latest in a series of high-profile incidents involving foreigners behaving badly in China. Two weeks ago, a drunk British tourist was captured on video attempting to sexually assault a Chinese woman in public. Again, this provoked widespread anger on social networking sites, and came at a time when the government is cracking down on foreigners living and working in the country without proper credentials.