A hard rain falls on Dylan’s Chinese fans

Aged 68 and almost half a century past the zenith of his angry, protest-song youth, Bob Dylan must almost have forgotten what it was like to be deemed a threat to society. But it seems at least one place still sees him as a dangerous radical.

Dylan’s planned tour of East Asia later this month has been called off after Chinese officials refused permission for him to play in Beijing and Shanghai, his local promoters said. China’s ministry of culture, which vets planned concerts by overseas artists, appeared wary of Dylan’s past as an icon of the counterculture movement, said Jeffrey Wu of the Taiwan-based promoters, Brokers Brothers Herald.

Dylan fans denied the chance to see their hero might also blame Björk, the Icelandic singer, who caused consternation among Chinese officials two years ago by shouting pro-Tibet slogans at a concert in Shanghai, Wu told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.

The verdict scuppers Dylan’s plans to play his first dates in mainland China. The singer, who plays about 100 concerts a year on his Never Ending Tour, had hoped to extend a multicity Japanese leg with concerts in Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong. All these would now be called off, Wu told the newspaper.

“With Beijing and China ruled out, it was not possible for him just to play concerts in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan,” he said. “The chance to play in China was the main attraction for him. When that fell through everything else was called off.”


Wu said officials had become more cautious since Björk chanted “Tibet! Tibet!” after performing a song called Declare Independence in Shanghai in 2008. China has ruled Tibet since invading it in 1950 and views the Himalayan territory as an integral part of its national territory.

“What Björk did definitely made life very difficult for other performers. They are very wary of what will be said by performers on stage now,” Wu said.

Last year Oasis were told they were “unsuitable” to play in Beijing and Shanghai because Noel Gallagher had appeared at a Tibet freedom concert 12 years earlier. —

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