BEIJING // Pop icon Elton John publicly dedicated his only concert here to Chinese artist and political critic Ai Weiwei, sending a murmur of shock through an audience accustomed to tight censorship of entertainment.
Minutes into a more than two-hour show last night, John told the audience that the performance was dedicated "to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei," according to several audience members. They said the crowd rumbled in recognition that Mr Ai remains a touchy subject for the Chinese government.
An internationally acclaimed sculptor and installation artist, Mr Ai has used his art and his renown to draw attention to social injustice. He was detained for nearly three months last year, and he remains barred from leaving China.
Mr Ai and John met briefly before the concert. "I super like him," Mr Ai wrote on his feed on Twitter, which is banned in China but on which he has 180,000 followers.
China-based online media sites reported on the Beijing show, but t did not report the remark about Mr Ai. The Chinese government exercises tight control of live performances, requiring artists to submit detailed lists of songs, casts and crew members before approval is given. Censors further tightened scrutiny after singer Björk shouted "Tibet, Tibet" at the close of a song titled "Declare Independence" at a Shanghai performance in 2008.