China Tightens Concert Rules After Elton John Incident

China has tightened requirements on visiting foreign musicians following Elton John’s dedication of a Beijing concert to the artist-activist Ai Weiwei last November. From Tania Branigan at The Guardian:

The singer’s remarks even prompted the culture minister, Cai Wu, to demand that only stars with university degrees be allowed to play in China in future, according to two sources. They said that days after the concert, Cai gathered those who deal with visiting foreign artists and announced that only graduates should be given performance licences. One source said officials believed it would be difficult to implement the edict, and both suggested it may have been a spur of the moment comment.

[…] Another source said that since the start of the year, classical musicians had been required to supply proof of degrees and other qualifications when applying for permission to tour China. “There is no doubt at all it has made things harder,” said one of those with knowledge of the meeting, adding that several recent applications for licences 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].”

Prominent artists touring in China may be stuck between a rock critic and a hard place: between censure from China for making “disrespectful” political gestures, and Western condemnation for failing to. Bob Dylan faced harsh criticism in 2011 for alleged self-censorship at Chinese concerts, which according to Maureen Dowd at The New York Times was “a whole new kind of sellout — even worse than […] Elton John raking in a fortune to serenade gay-bashers at Rush Limbaugh’s fourth wedding.”

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