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China rocker quits state TV show over song choice

BEIJING -- A Chinese rocker known for his rebellious style will not perform at a state broadcaster's variety show for the upcoming Lunar New Year after he refused a request by the organizers to sing a different song than his own choice, his manager said.

Cui Jian had proposed to sing his 1986 song “Nothing to My Name” at China Central Television's Jan. 30 gala show, but the event's censors told him he would have to choose another song, his manager, You You, said late Friday. “Nothing to My Name” became the unofficial anthem for demonstrating students during the deadly 1989 Tiananmen protests.

Cui decided to quit the show instead of singing a different song, You You said.

“It is not only our regret, but also the gala's,” the manager said. “Cui Jian has his fans all over the world, so his stage is far beyond the CCTV's gala.”

The state broadcaster could not be reached immediately Saturday for comment.

Many members of the Chinese public praised Cui, 52, for refusing to kowtow to China's censors.

“You are still so proud,” Mongolian singer Daiqing Tana of the Beijing-based group Haya Band wrote on her microblog. “You are the backbone and gall of this land. Your music is the hope and despair of this country.”

Cui fell out of favor with the Chinese government after he sided with the Tiananmen protesters, but received an invitation this year from CCTV to perform at the annual show.

Since its inception in the early 1980s, the television gala has become a staple for the holiday celebrations, although it has become widely mocked for its cheesy performances and stilted staging, prompting organizers to hire popular film director Feng Xiaogang to direct this year's gala.

Known as the godfather of Chinese rock, Cui won fame in the late 1980s with songs such as “Nothing to My Name,” voicing the hopes and anxieties of a generation of Chinese entering adulthood after the death of Mao Zedong and the end of orthodox communism.

During the 1989 pro-democracy protests, Cui performed at Tiananmen Square for students on a hunger strike, days before the government sent in tanks and troops to crack down on the demonstrations.

Later, Communist authorities denied Cui permission for concerts and censored his lyrics. In 2005, he was allowed to headline at a Beijing stadium, and the following year he performed with the Rolling Stones in Shanghai, singing “Wild Horses” alongside Mick Jagger.

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Chinese rock singer Cui Jian performs during his concert in Beijing on Dec. 24, 2009.(AP)

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