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Singer Elton John used his only Beijing performance to pay tribute to Ai Weiwei, the dissident artist who has used his fame to highlight social injustice in China.
According to The AP, just after the two-hour show at the Wukesong Arena started Sunday night, the “Rocket Man” singer dedicated the show “to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei,” audience members say.
The crowd was shocked to hear the singer even mention the artist’s name, since entertainment is usually tightly controlled by the government.
Ai is an outspoken sculptor and installation artist who is known around the world for his work and his outspoken comments about the Chinese government. Last year, he was jailed for three months without being charged.
John performed in Shanghai on Friday. Both shows were reported by the government-controlled Chinese media, but they did not mention his comment about Ai.
Artists must send in set lists to the government before they can perform. The government’s censorship tightened after Bjork famously shouted “Tibet, Tibet” after the song “Declare Independence” in 2008.