Pop diva Katy Perry has an upcoming Witness tour in 2018–so far, six Asian cities have been announced, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta. China, perhaps the largest music market in Asia, is not listed as one of the destinations for Perry’s world tour. This news is not surprising, as Perry has been “banned indefinitely” by the Chinese government following her failed attempt to apply for a Chinese visa to attend the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion show in Shanghai.
Chinese officials’ main concern derives from Perry’s controversial 2015 performance in Taipei, where she wore a bright, glittery gown decorated with sunflowers, a symbol adopted by anti-Chinese protesters in Taiwan just a year ago. She also waved a Taiwanese flag during the concert in support of the country. Perry’s actions were deemed “pro-Taiwan independence” and therefore a threat to the Chinese public, who believe that Taiwan is a province of China.
In fact, Katy Perry is not the only singer blacklisted by China. In November 2015, Chou Tzu-yu, a young Taiwanese singer in the nine-girl Korean pop band Twice, was accused of expressing pro-Taiwan independence sentiments when she introduced herself as Taiwanese and casually waved a Taiwanese flag on a South Korean TV show. Days later, Chou was banned from performing on Anhui TV’s Spring Festival Gala. Twice’s management company, JYP, had to issue a refund of around $15,230 dollars for the loss.
The incident stimulated a widespread anti-JYP movement in China. Chou was eventually forced to apologize in a YouTube video for her “shameful actions” and acknowledge Taiwan as a province of China. “There is only one China,” she said in a monotonous tone. “The cross-straits territories are one and the same, and I am proud to consider myself thoroughly Chinese.” Chou had to put a halt to all her activities in China for the time being.
By January 2017, China has allegedly blacklisted 55 artists. Fire EX, a Taiwanese punk band, made it on the list for creating a song in the name of Taiwan’s 2014 Sunflower Student Movement, which protested against a trade agreement with mainland China. Chthonic, a Taiwanese heavy metal band famous for producing songs that incorporate uniquely Taiwanese instruments, was also banned from entering China.
Many have expressed discomfort with China’s interference in the global music industry, worrying that this would not only infringe upon artistic freedom, but also intensify the already strained relationship between China and Taiwan.