Sir Elton John Dedicates Beijing Concert to Ai Weiwei

On Sunday night Sir Elton John‘s world tour took him to Beijing’s Wukesong Arena, where he surprised the tens of thousands in attendance by dedicating his performance to the artist and activist Ai Weiwei. The dedication to Ai, who has long been a target for censorship by the Chinese government and was detained for 81 days last year, is all the more surprising given the stringent approval process internationally touring artists must go through when performing in China, BBC News noted.

Foreign music acts coming to China must clear their set lists with the authorities, as well as their cast and crew members, but that didn’t stop John from telling the audience on Sunday night that his performance commemorated Ai’s “spirit and talent.”

In trademark fashion, Ai took to Twitter before the concert, posting links to images of himself and his son backstage with John, saying of the British pop star: “I super like him.”

Chinese authorities have not responded to John’s dedication — though it does not figure in any of the state-controlled media’s accounts of the concert — but earlier this year Madonna was reprimanded for her show of solidarity with another victim of state-sanctioned censorship, Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot.

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image via Ai Weiwei/Instagram.)