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After Elton John, A Possible Concert Crackdown In China

Michelle Toh |
February 13, 2013 | 4:51 p.m. PST

Assistant News Editor

Elton John's concert dedication to activist Ai Weiwei may lead to stricter concert control. (Heinrich Klaffs, Creative Commons)
Elton John's concert dedication to activist Ai Weiwei may lead to stricter concert control. (Heinrich Klaffs, Creative Commons)
In response to Elton John's controversial November performance, Chinese authorities have tightened permit rules for foreign musicians, The Guardian reported Sunday. During his concert in Beijing, John told the crowd that his show was dedicated "to the spirit and talent" of Chinese political activist Ai Weiwei, with whom he had met before the show.

 “I super like him, although we only spent ten minutes together,” Ai Weiwei wrote of their meeting on Twitter, which remains banned in China.

According to reports, police showed up backstage after the show to question the singer, asking him to sign a statement declaring that his dedication had only been in admiration of his art. Meanwhile, the state-run Global Times published a story criticizing what they called "John's outburst," stating that his dedication had been "met with indifference" and "only a muted response from the crowd." Whether or not this is an accurate depiction of the events that night is unclear. The editorial then goes on to say "Western society is biased against China" and "they cannot control China through normal means and they are more likely to rush their fences."

"Obviously, John's unexpected action was disrespectful to the audience and the contract that he signed with the Chinese side," they wrote, adding that he "forcibly added political content to the concert."

Sources said that days after the concert, Chinese Minister Cai Wu announced a new rule that would only allow artists with university degrees to perform in China, though this claim was later denied by the ministry.

While many of the sources are conflicting in nature, reports have concluded that the government has at least toughened the application process for licenses to perform.

This is not the first time a musician has made politically controversial statements whilst performing in China. In 2008, Björk upset Chinese fans and authorities when chanting, "Tibet! Tibet!" during her performance of the song "Declare Independence" in Shanghai. Like John's tribute to Ai, her remark was not included in reports from official media at first, but sparked contention when video clips of the concert were posted online.

"Tibet has been an inseparable part of Chinese territories since ancient times, which is universally recognised by the international community," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told The Guardian.

In other renditions, Björk also dedicated the song to Greenland and the Faroe Islands, both still under the sovereignty of Denmark, and ethnically divided Kosovo.

Click here to see a photo of Ai and John.

Reach Assistant News Editor Michelle Toh here.



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