Tiananmen rocker Cui Jian will not perform at Lunar New Year gala

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese rocker Cui Jian, who inspired the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, will not perform on state television's annual new year gala, his manager said on Saturday, following a surprise invitation to appear.

"Cui Jian will not perform at the Spring Festival Gala," said his manager You You.

"It didn't work out," she added, referring queries to the show's organising committee for any further explanation.

Asked by the Beijing News daily, however, Ms You said the singer had refused to "change the words" of his songs, without specifying who had demanded the changes for the Lunar New Year show.

The announcement in early January that Mr Cui had been invited to perform on CCTV's annual Spring Festival Gala was greeted with surprise due to the singer's links to the pro-democracy protests.

Mr Cui, dubbed the "father of rock" in China, began recording in the 1980s and his song "Nothing to My Name" became an unofficial anthem for the student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The demonstrations were brutally crushed by authorities, killing hundreds or even thousands, and Mr Cui, who had appeared alongside the protesters, was banned from performing large-scale concerts in the mainland.

But in more recent years he has played to sizeable audiences at music festivals in the country.

He maintains a low-key public persona but recently criticised young people in China for what he described as their indifference to politics.

"Most of the young people forget about politics," he told the South China Morning Post newspaper in December.

"Personally, I want to see rights, freedom of speech, but it's a boring subject, because everybody thinks it's dangerous," he added.

The glitzy new year gala is generally known for a mix of patriotic songs, comedy sketches, and elaborate dance routines, and has displayed images glorifying top politicians and Communist Party slogans.

Ms Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping, was a regular performer on previous shows and state-run media said the 2012 gala had a global audience of one billion people.