China tightens rules on performers

Bjork's Tibet protest causes crackdown

Icelandic warbler Bjork’s call for Tibetan independence activists to stand up, appears to have ruffled feathers in China even more than initially thought after her outburst in March.

The Ministry of Culture says any entertainers from foreign countries, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao seeking to perform in China will have their background credentials and management checked more carefully by the culture mandarins.

“Those who used to take part in activities that harm our nation’s sovereignty are firmly not allowed to perform in China,” the rules say. Performers’ credit profiles would also be checked, according to the new rules.

Encores have to be approved in advance, and the new rules also call for barring performers who “advocate obscenity or feudalism and superstition.”

References to feudalism probably relate to the Tibetan independence movement. China describes the march on Tibet by People’s Liberation Army troops in 1950 as the overthrow of a feudal system of rule by monks, under the Dalai Lama.

The ministry ruling is the latest tough measure in China as part of a security clampdown ahead of the Olympics, which begin Aug. 8.

When it won the bid to host the Games in July 2001, China pledged media freedom, better human rights and unprecedented openness for the Games, and it has relaxed some restrictions, but many believe it has not delivered on these promises.

There are security checkpoints all over Beijing, visa rules have been tightened, and the police have clamped down on protests by grieving parents whose children died in school collapses in the Sichuan earthquake on May12.

The ban would also apply to artists who “stir up ethnic hatred” during their performances. When Bjork performed “Declare Independence” at her show in Shanghai in March, she shouted “Tibet! Tibet!” toward the end of the song. The Chinese government was furious at the outburst, saying it “broke Chinese law and hurt Chinese people’s feelings,” while supporters of Tibetan independence were delighted.

Outdoor pop festivals have been canceled in the run-up to the Games, and entertainment venues are coming under tighter control as the Games draw near. The government is keen to keep as tight a grip on entertainment venues as possible for fear they could become hotbeds of dissent.

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