China rocker quits state TV show over song choice

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BEIJING (AP) — A legendary Chinese rocker has refused to perform at a state broadcaster’s variety show after being denied permission to sing a song that became an unofficial anthem of the 1989 pro-democracy protests, his manager said.

Cui Jian had proposed to sing his 1986 song “Nothing to My Name” at China Central Television’s Jan. 30 gala show marking the Lunar New Year, but the event’s censors told him he would have to choose another, his manager, You You, said late Friday.

Cui decided to quit the show instead of singing a different song, You You said.

Cui sang “Nothing to My Name” at Tiananmen Square for students on a hunger strike in 1989, days before the government sent in tanks and troops to crack down on the demonstrations.

Later, Communist authorities denied him permission for concerts and censored his lyrics. In 2005, he was allowed to headline at a Beijing stadium, and the following year he performed with the Rolling Stones in Shanghai, singing “Wild Horses” alongside Mick Jagger.

“It is not only our regret, but also the gala’s,” the manager said. “Cui Jian has his fans all over the world, so his stage is far beyond the CCTV’s gala.”

The state broadcaster could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Many members of the Chinese public praised Cui, 52, for refusing to kowtow to China’s censors.

“You are still so proud,” Mongolian singer Daiqing Tana of the Beijing-based group Haya Band wrote on her microblog. “You are the backbone and gall of this land. Your music is the hope and despair of this country.”

“The gala will always be the same gala, but Cui Jian will not be the same Cui Jian if he appears there,” storytelling artist Li Boqing wrote on his microblog.

Cui fell out of favor with the Chinese government after he sided with the Tiananmen protesters, but received an invitation this year from CCTV to perform at the annual show.

Since its inception in the early 1980s, the television gala has become a staple for the holiday celebrations, although it has become widely mocked for its cheesy performances and stilted staging, prompting organizers to hire popular film director Feng Xiaogang to direct this year’s gala.

Known as the godfather of Chinese rock, Cui won fame in the late 1980s with songs such as “Nothing to My Name,” voicing the hopes and anxieties of a generation of Chinese entering adulthood after the death of Mao Zedong and the end of orthodox communism.

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