A recent shout-out by pop legend Elton John to dissident artist Ai Weiwei at the singer's first concert in Beijing could have easily made it his last there.
In front of a sold-out concert at the MasterCard Centre on Sunday, the British singer dedicated his “whole show” to Ai, who for many years has been mainland officials’ public enemy No 1.
“I really like him, although we only spent 10 minutes together. Sincere, generous,” Ai tweeted, referring to Sir Elton, who also performed in Shanghai last week. His tour will take him to Seoul and Kuala Lumpur before he comes to Hong Kong on December 4.
— 艾未未Ai Weiwei (@aiww) November 26, 2012
Like old friends, the two snapped photos together backstage, which have since surfaced across social media websites. Sir Elton even got one with Ai’s son.
Chinese netizens were quick to draw parallels with a similar incident involving a foreign pop star and a touchy political issue.
Icelandic pop sensation Bjork was slammed by China's Foreign Ministry in 2008 after she innocuously dedicated the song Declare Independence to the Tibetan independence movement at a Shanghai concert.
China’s Culture Ministry accused the singer of “hurting Chinese people’s feelings” and vowed to keep closer tabs on foreign artists performing in the country.
Sir Elton’s high-profile shout-out would probably have irked the Culture Ministry but he is unlikely to receive the same amount heat as Bjork did in 2008, who made her comment during the politically-charged period ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
“Now, if he had donned black shades and shouted, 'Chen Guang-f*****n’-cheng, amirite?' we might have a problem,” wrote one blogger, referring to blind legal activist Chen Guang-cheng.