Sir Elton John publicly dedicated his only concert in Beijing 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, Sir Elton 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.
The internationally-acclaimed sculptor has used 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 Sir Elton met each other briefly on Sunday before the concert. “I super like him,” Mr Ai said on his Twitter feed, which is banned in China.
China-based online media sites reported on Sir Elton’s show but omitted his remark about Mr Ai.