Banned in China: why some of music’s top stars are blacklisted by Beijing

Katy Perry has no Chinese dates lined up on her 2018 Asia tour despite her huge popularity, but from former teen pop star Miley Cyrus to rock legend Bob Dylan, other artists have found themselves unwelcome in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 7:48pm

When US pop star Katy Perry announced her 2018 Asia tour dates last week – including a performance at AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong on March 30 – notably absent were any shows planned for China.

Perry is believed to be persona non grata there because she waved a Taiwanese flag and wore a sunflower dress during a concert in Taipei in 2015. Many observers saw her attire as a statement supporting the Taiwanese anti-China protesters who had used the sunflower symbol as part of their campaign the year before.

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More recently, she was denied a visa in November to perform in Shanghai at the first Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to be held in China. Perry joins a long list of music icons banned from performing in China – here are some other notable acts on the blacklist.


The US rapper and husband of Beyoncé was banned from performing in China in 2006 because his music contains “too many profane lyrics”. The Ministry of Culture said in a statement that it had “decided to protect the city’s hip hop fans from nasty lyrics about pimps, guns and drugs”. Jay-Z had been scheduled to perform in Shanghai, but the promoter said some of his songs apparently “contain too much vulgar language”.


The Icelandic songstress ignited a firestorm of controversy in 2008 when she chanted “free Tibet” and wore an outfit bearing the Tibetan flag during a concert in Shanghai. The Ministry of Culture said Bjork “not only broke Chinese laws and regulations and hurt the feelings of Chinese people, but also went against the professional code of an artist”, and she hasn’t been allowed back.

Miley Cyrus

The former teen star and current twerking queen was accused of racism after posting a photo of herself making slanted eyes in 2009. She was barred from entering China, and broadcasts of her TV show and films, and sales of her merchandise, were banned. “Miss Cyrus has made it clear she is no friend of China or anyone of East Asian descent. We have no interest in further polluting our children’s minds with her American ignorance,” the ministry said.


The British band were reportedly “bewildered” when told their planned 2009 concerts in Shanghai and Beijing would not be going ahead. The promoter of the concerts said the licences were revoked after Chinese officials discovered that Oasis singer Noel Gallagher had appeared at a Tibetan Freedom concert in 1997. But an official later said it was nothing to do with Tibet, and that the gigs were cancelled due to a “tough economic situation”.

Bob Dylan

The veteran protest singer was forced to cancel shows in Beijing and Shanghai in 2010. At the time, the promoter of Dylan’s debut China shows said the Ministry of Culture was wary of the singer’s past as a counterculture icon and the lyrics of his songs such as The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Blowin’ In The Wind. Dylan was allowed to perform in China in 2011 – but only with a pre-approved set list.

Lady Gaga

First the provocative singer and LGBTQ activist was banned in 2011 for “creating confusion” in the online music scene and damaging China’s national security. Although this ban had been lifted by 2016, Lady Gaga then found herself back on the blacklist after she was pictured with the Dalai Lama, leading to an order to remove her music from all Chinese streaming sites.

Maroon 5

The American pop-rock band were scheduled to perform in Beijing and Shanghai in 2015, but the shows were cancelled without any explanation from authorities.

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However, rumours said Maroon 5 had been blacklisted because members of the band had met the Dalai Lama. The band’s keyboard player also once tweeted a birthday greeting to the exiled Tibetan leader.

Bon Jovi

The veteran American rockers had been preparing for shows in Shanghai and Beijing in 2015 when they were cancelled at the last minute. Authorities didn’t provide any explanation, but observers expect Bon Jovi were banned when officials discovered they had performed in front of a backdrop of the Dalai Lama and band members had tweeted about the exiled Tibetan leader.

Justin Bieber

The US pop star “engaged in a series of bad behaviours, both in his social life and during a previous performance in China”, the Ministry of Culture said in announcing Bieber would be unable to perform in China earlier this year.

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Perhaps the ministry was referring to pictures of the US pop star being carried up the Great Wall of China by his bodyguards during his “Behaviour” tour in 2013.