China is reviewing an application from Bob Dylan to stage concerts in the country, a year after the American folk legend's planned concerts in Beijing and Shanghai were canceled, an official at the Ministry of Culture said Thursday.
The application was pending and the ministry's decision would be posted on the ministry's official website, the official who would only gave his last name, Zhou, told The Associated Press.
The Dylan fan magazine ISIS recently reported on its website that the singer was to perform in Beijing on April 6 and Shanghai on April 8 as part of an upcoming Asian tour. But the dates were not listed on Dylan's official website, raising speculation of possible censorship problems.
Dylan was originally scheduled to play Beijing and Shanghai last year, but the dates were canceled. Mainland music fans blamed a financial dispute with Dylan's Taiwanese promoter. The promoter denied the allegations, saying the flash point was a demand from the Ministry of Culture for Dylan to sign a pledge promising "not to hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" during his performances.
The Chinese government carefully screens the content of imported entertainment content for political messages or commentary that runs contrary to its official line.
Foreign music acts in particular are believed to receive special scrutiny after Icelandic singer Bjork shouted "Tibet!" during a 2008 concert in Shanghai after performing a song called "Declare Independence."
A year later, British rock group Oasis scrapped its planned debut in China, saying Ministry of Culture officials were offended by the fact that front man Noel Gallagher performed at a free Tibet concert in New York City in 1997.
China claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries and that Beijing's tight control is draining them of their culture and identity.
Dylan may be considered a controversial act in China because of his association with protest movements in the U.S. in the 1960s. Songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin" were inspirations for the American civil rights and anti-war movements.
Dylan is confirmed for a slew of other Asian dates, according to his official website, including Hong Kong on April 12 and Singapore on April 15. He will then tour Australia and New Zealand. Former British colony Hong Kong is now a Chinese territory, but it maintains a Western-style government that promises freedom of speech.
The ISIS fan website also lists an April 10 performance in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a date also not listed on Dylan's official website.
Dylan's publicist and agent for international tours didn't immediately respond to e-mail and phone messages from the AP.