Chinese singer, Cui Jian, who is known for performing a song that became the anthem for the Tiananmen Square protests, cancelled his planned performance for China’s Spring Festival Gala on China Central Television, which attracts millions of viewers.
Cui decision to pull out came after organizers reportedly told him that he could not perform “Nothing to My Name” – the same song that he sang in front of Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989.
Cui decided to quit the show because he did not want to perform an alternative song, according to his manager, You You.
“It is not only our regret, but also the gala’s,” said the manager. “Cui Jian has his fans all over the world, so his stage is far beyond the CCTV’s gala.”
The move was met with praise by some members of the public.
“You are the backbone and gall of this land. Your music is the hope and despair of this country,” wrote Mongolian singer Daiqing Tana, who is based in Beijing.
Cui’s invitation to perform at the Spring Festival Gala comes after the Chinese Communist Party lifted a ban on him that lasted several years. Following his band’s controversial performance of the 1986 hit during the Tiananmen Square incident and a 1990 concert in which criticized the Sino-Vietnamese war, Cui’s music career suffered. For many years he was barred from performing on any official stages and kept a low-profile with small performances at bars and tiny venues.
The decision to invite Cui, who released the first original rock’n’roll album in China, to perform on state TV came as a shock to many due to the political nature of his lyrics. In December he told the South China Morning Post that “most of the young people forget about politics.”
He also added, “Personally, I want to see rights, freedom of speech, but it’s a boring subject, because everybody thinks it’s dangerous.”
The Spring Festival in China, which is also known as the Lunar New Year, is the country’s most important holiday. Families traditionally gather around the television set to watch CCTV’s “Spring Festival Eve Gala,” the variety show with the highest ratings in China. In recent years, however, the program has lost appeal among audiences, especially younger viewers, due to its patriotic songs, Communist Party slogans and cheesy skits.
Although little is known about the censorship process for the gala, some performers such as Taiwanese magician, Liu Qian, have complained that it is “truly frightening.”