China’s rock rebel Cui Jian gets the Party startled

The artist whose song became a Tiananmen Square anthem falls foul of state sensitivities

He is known as the godfather of Chinese rock’n’roll, who single-handedly started the underground pop scene in 1980s Beijing.

But Cui Jian won’t be performing at China’s premier variety show later this month.

The 52-year-old guitarist, who provided the unofficial anthem for the Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989, had been invited to perform at the state broadcaster’s show to celebrate the Lunar New Year on 30 January. However, Cui decided to quit the China Central Television (CCTV) gala after organisers told him he could not perform his rebellious anthem, his management said.

Cui has fallen in and out of favour several times with China’s government since he first performed “Nothing to my Name” at Tiananmen Square during the democracy protests more than two decades ago. But in recent years he had been welcomed backed into the fold. So much so that he was allowed to headline at the Beijing Stadium in 2005 and, in 2006, he performed in Shanghai with the Rolling Stones, singing “Wild Horses” alongside frontman Mick Jagger.

His hopes of performing with the Stones had been previously dashed when, in 2003, he was booked to open for the ageing rockers’ Beijing leg of their Forty Licks tour, but the gig was cancelled after the Sars outbreak.

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

Often referred to as China’s Bruce Springsteen – the Boss of Beijing – Cui’s star rose in the late 1980s, most famously with “Nothing to my Name”, which voiced the hopes and anxieties of a generation of Chinese entering adulthood after the death of Mao Zedong.

The 30 January gala had been seen as the final stage of Cui’s political rehabilitation. However, Steven Schwankert, of True Run Media in Beijing, which publishes a guide to nightlife and entertainment in the Chinese capital, said he “would have been surprised if he played”.

In 1984, Cui was a classical trumpet player with the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra but, inspired by bootleg tapes of Simon and Garfunkel and John Denver sourced from Hong Kong or friends at Western embassies, he formed a band and kick-started the Chinese rock scene.

He recorded “Nothing to my Name” in 1986 but his growing popularity with Beijing’s youth cost him his government job.

He started performing regularly during the brief wave of openness under Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, who was ousted in 1989. At that time, Cui could tell the party’s English-language paper, the China Daily: “Rock’n’roll is a special kind of music. It’s anti-tradition, anti-culture. It’s ideology of a modern man.” His words angered party hard-liners, as did his rock renditions of revolutionary songs of the 1930s.

Sporting a headband, he played for Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989, days before the government crackdown that left hundreds dead. His song went on to become the movement’s unofficial anthem.

In recent years, Cui’s return to the limelight saw him visit Taiwan, open for Deep Purple and play with American hip-hop group Public Enemy. But appearances on Chinese national television are still rare.

In a 2005 interview with The Independent, he said: “In China now, it is good weather, but it’s not a good climate. They’ll let you make more money, they’ll give you good food and let you have all the things you have in the West, while still controlling things. They don’t believe Western democracy will enable China to get better smoothly. I  understand why foreigners don’t trust that and I’d agree with them.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there