THE VERVE, PULP, RADIOHEAD and REM will be banned from playing in China or having their records sold there if they play the Tibetan Freedom Festival in Washington DC in June.
That was the warning from the Chinese Government last week. An official statement from the Chinese Embassy in London strongly criticised bands lining up to take part in this year’s festival, co-organised by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch and Milarepa, the San Francisco based charity that aims to highlight Chinese oppression in Tibet.
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy said: “Western artists have no right to intervene in the internal affairs of our country. Any of those performers who do will not be permitted entry to China, including Tibet, and their works will never be welcome in our country.”
It’s the first time the Chinese Government has commented publicly on artist involvement in the protest against the Chinese Government’s oppression of the Tibetan people.
The Tibetan Freedom Festival, held over June 13 and 14 at Washington’s RFK Stadium, also includes performances by Kraftwerk, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, Beck and Patti Smith.
Representatives for many of the artists appearing at this year’s concerts say they have no intention of pulling out, despite the fact that the Chinese market, before the recent Asian economy collapse, was the fastest-growing in the world.
Milarepa founder Erin Potts said: “No-one has pulled out and we’re not expecting them to, quite the opposite in fact. If you tell a rock star what they can or can’t do they usually react the opposite way. We’ve spoken to all the bands’ managements and they’re all looking forward to playing.”
Michael Stipe said: “As much as I would love to visit China, it’s not going to keep me from playing.”
Bertis Downs, REM’s manager, added: “I’m sure the band will still play. We will be there to play music, let the chips fall as they may.”
And Yauch added: “If they are trying to stop foreign minds, one can only imagine o what they do within their own borders. This is a small example of the kind of thing that goes on all the time in China and Tibet.”
An official Milarepa statement highlighted what it called the intolerance of the Chinese authorities.
“The banning of the artists performing at the Tibetan Freedom Concert demonstrates the Chinese Government’s intolerance for the most basic of human rights. It is unfortunate that (the Chinese Government) finds the idea of people exercising their freedom of speech so threatening. We hope that the Chinese Government officials will come to the show so they can witness democracy in action.”
On June 15, there will be a day of action for Tibet on the White House lawn. Many of the artists playing at the Washington concerts are expected to perform.
The first Tibetan Freedom Concert was staged in San Francisco in 1996. Last year, it moved to New York’s Randall’s Island. Both shows raised over $1 million for Milarepa.