Musicians Say The Darndest Things

Chinese authorities have formalized sentiments they expressed following Bjork’s pro-Tibetan freedom outburst at a Shanghai concert last spring.

The Ministry of Culture announced July 17 it would ban all entertainers from overseas, including those from Taiwan and Hong Kong, who "threatened national sovereignty."

The warning indicates that the Chinese government will look into the backgrounds of all foreign artists who wish to perform in China.

"Any artistic group or individual who have ever engaged in activities which threaten our national sovereignty will not be allowed in," read a statement on the ministry’s Web site. Moreover, entertainers who "threaten national unity, whip up ethnic hatred, violate religious policy or cultural norms; or advocated obscenity or feudalism and superstition" will also be banned.

It’s a moot point, as the government has already canceled a number of pop festivals this summer and made it more difficult for promoters to invite foreign artists to perform in China. Most of these moves are related to security measures for the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

While Bjork’s performance has remained the lightning rod for the government’s stricter policies, the more worrisome source of protest, according to China watchers, are ethnic Chinese artists from Taiwan and Hong Kong who tend to be used to a more open society.

In general, musicians in Beijing are effectively on hiatus this summer as live performances have been stopped in bars and other venues. Many clubs have suddenly been told that they now need performance licenses.

In related news, Chinese media have reported that Beijing International Airport will be closed for four hours during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Though airport officials have said no flight ban will be in effect at that time, several airlines that have arriving flights scheduled during the opening ceremony say they received notes saying the airport would be closed August 8 from 7 p.m. to midnight.