Authorities in China have reportedly hardened their stance on foreign performers after Elton John dedicated a recent concert in Beijing to artist and political activist Ai Weiwei.
to reports, John finished his November 2012 performance in Beijing by
saying the show was dedicated "to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei". The Guardian
reports that officers wanted John's manager to sign a statement saying
the dedication was inspired only by admiration for Ai's art. Chinese
culture minister Cai Wu is subsequently believed to have demanded that
only artists with a university degree be able to perform live in China,
to avoid a repeat embarrassment.
Elton John had met Ai Weiwei shortly before his Beijing concert and,
despite offending officials with his words, was allowed to perform in
Guangzhou the next month. Ai Weiwei has been highly and openly critical
of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights and was
arrested in 2011, held for two months and then released without charge.
There have been no official changes to the policy on performers and the
requirements needed to play live. However, a source informed The
Guardian that classical musicians had been told to provide proof of
their education and qualifications when applying to tour China adding
that several applications had been rejected. "They are looking closely
at videos, making sure that the people on stage are exactly the same as
in the visa applications, and so on. It's not a change in the rules as
much as a tightening [of existing procedures]."
The Elton John incident follows a similar moment in 2008 when Björk
shouted "Tibet! Tibet!" while performing in Shanghai. Speaking about her
comments, a spokesperson for the ministry of culture in China stated:
"[her] political show has not only broken Chinese laws and regulations,
and hurt the feeling of Chinese people, but also went against the
professional code of an artist."