UK & World News

  • 26 November 2012, 10:27

China: Elton John Dedicates Gig To Weiwei

Sir Elton John has caused controversy in China and embarrassment for the Communist Party after dedicating a concert in Beijing to dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

The singer was performing at the Mastercard Arena in the Chinese capital on Sunday night.

"This whole show is dedicated to Ai Weiwei," he told the 10,000 strong crowd after his second song.

Ai Weiwei is a longstanding critic of the Chinese government and its suppression of free speech. He spent 81 days in jail last year.

Chinese authorities claimed he had been detained for tax evasion, although it is widely believed they were fed up with his constant criticism of the Communist Party.

Mr Ai played a part in the design of Beijing's Olympic Birds Nest stadium. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, he took on the cause of parents who had lost their children in poorly constructed schools.

Sir Elton is not the first foreign musician to make an unscripted outburst in China, although it has not happened for some time.

In 2008, Bjork used a concert in Shanghai to highlight the issue of Tibet. The Icelandic singer chanted "Tibet, Tibet, Tibet" during a song called Declare Independence.

To mention Tibet in such circumstances is significantly more controversial than any mention of Ai Weiwei.

Her outburst prompted the Chinese authorities to stop all western musicians from performing in China for a year.

It is likely Sir Elton would have had his song list and lyrics vetted by China's Culture Ministry before the concert.

He is due to play one more concert in Guangzhou on December 6 - if the Chinese authorities do not cancel it first.